According to a new report from ProPublica, the Trump DOJ wants to add a citizenshipÂ question to the 2020 Census.
the Justice Department is pushing for a question on citizenship to be added to the 2020 census, a move that observers say could depress participation by immigrants who fear that the government could use the information against them. That, in turn, could have potentially large ripple effects for everything the once-a-decade census determines â€” from how congressional seats are distributed around the country to whereÂ hundreds of billionsÂ of federal dollars are spent.
The DOJ made the request in aÂ previously unreported letter, dated Dec. 12 and obtained by ProPublica, from DOJ officialÂ Arthur GaryÂ to the top official at the Census Bureau, which is part of the Commerce Department. The letter argues that the DOJ needs better citizenship data to better enforce the Voting Rights Act â€œand its important protections against racial discrimination in voting.â€
A Census Bureau spokesperson confirmed the agency received the letter and said the â€œrequest will go through the well-established process that any potential question would go through.â€ The DOJ declined to comment and the White House did not respond to a request for comment.
Some have raised concerns over this:
Observers said they feared adding a citizenship question would not only lower response rates, but also make the census more expensive and throw a wrench into the system with just two years to go before the 2020 count. Questions are usually carefully field-tested, a process that can take years.
â€œThis is a recipe for sabotaging the census,â€ saidÂ Arturo Vargas, a member of the National Advisory Committee of the Census and the executive director of NALEO Educational Fund, a Latino advocacy group. â€œWhen you start adding last-minute questions that are not tested â€” how will the public understand the question? How much will it suppress response rates?â€
The 2010 census included a handful ofÂ questionsÂ covering age, sex, race, Hispanic origin, household relationship and owner/renter status â€” but not citizenship.
â€œPeople are not going to come out to be counted because theyâ€™re going to be fearful the information would be used for negative purposes,â€ saidÂ Steve Jost, a former top bureau official during the 2010 census. â€œThis line about enforcing voting rights is a new and scary twist.â€ He noted that since the first census in 1790, the goal has been to count everyone in the country, not just citizens.
Here is the DOJ’s response:
The Justice DepartmentÂ letterÂ argues that including a citizenship question on the once-a-decade census would allow the agency to better enforceÂ Section 2Â of the Voting Rights Act, which bars the dilution of voting power of a minority group through redistricting.
â€œTo fully enforce those requirements, the Department needs a reliable calculation of the citizen voting-age population in localities where voting rights violations are alleged or suspected,â€ the letter states. The letter asks that the Census Bureau â€œreinstateâ€ the question.
We don’t know what the questions will be yet but so far I see little issue with this. We need to make sure that our Census is informing us on the population of those here legally. We need to make sure that illegal immigrants do not feel like can respond on these forms like they are actual citizens. We also need to make sure that when they are counting population to decide how many representatives a state gets illegal immigrants are never included.