Trump Administration officials said the 2020 census will ask people if they are American citizens in the 2020 census, even though the US Census Bureau dropped the query from its survey in 1950.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross defended the decision on the department’s website, saying the data would be used to track “alleged or suspected” Voting Rights Act violations to protect minority voters. The Justice Department, under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, reportedly requested the addition.
But others like California Attorney General Xavier Becerra have called the move a “politically charged.” Becerra has tweeted he will file suit against an “illegal” policy change.
The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA), reacted in dismay at news the US Department of Commerce will be re-instating a citizenship status question.
“It appears the Trump Administration will make every effort, at every turn, to sow fear, distrust, and division in the Land,” said CHIRLA Executive Director Angelica Salas. “The inclusion of a citizenship question in Census 2020 is intentionally designed to make immigrant communities invisible.
Salas said the census is a “parameter of our nation’s population, not a proxy” for discrimination, bigotry, and xenophobia.
“There is absolutely no reason why this question would be useful to the U.S. other than to discourage large numbers of community members from participating in the process and therefore diminishing their electoral power and funding allocations. The constitution is clear: immigrants count in America.”
Also firing back was Ben Monterroso, executive director of Mi Familia Vota.
“The Census needs to accurately reflect our population so that we can make the changes that we need in our communities,” Monterroso said. “The President cannot demonize immigrants, threaten them with deportations and family separation, and then expect them to trust the government by disclosing sensitive information on a census form.
“Adding a citizenship question may deter participation from immigrant households, that are largely in poor neighborhoods, thus cutting even further from these communities the scant funds they receive. Agencies and officials in all fields need to have accurate data to best analyze critical issues that our communities face. This has lasting impacts on everything from our health to our education, and even on legislative redistricting. This hurts us at a local level, and it’s damaging to who we are as a country.”
Monterroso said there were several ways residents could help change the outcome of the Census questionnaire, including providing public comment and asking elected officials to intervene through lawsuits and legislation. Furthermore, he said, the Secretary of Commerce would be forced to justify the citizenship question since the addition was made after the census questionnaire deadline.