CHN: Commerce Secretary Ross Announces 2020 Census Will Include Citizenship Question

U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced on March 26 that the Trump Administration intends to add a question about citizenship to the 2020 Census. The full list of questions for the decennial census must be sent to Congress by March 31, which has the authority to reject questions. The Census is constitutionally mandated to count every person in the U.S., regardless of immigration status, and the counts of all persons are used in determining a state’s number of congressional seats, legislative district lines, and funding levels for many federal grant programs to states or localities. Many advocates and state officials are highly critical of the Administration’s stance, believing that in the midst of heightened anti-immigrant enforcement activities and policies, including a citizenship question on the Census will discourage people from returning the Census form. This is likely to worsen the undercount of low-income people, people of color, and children. In the 2010 Census, children were significantly undercounted.

California’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced that he would be bringing suit against the federal government to force them to drop this question, and it is likely that other states that stand to lose congressional seats or federal funding will also sue.

Secretary Ross’ decision was pursuant to a request by the Justice Department to add the question. Ross sent a memo to the Justice Department agreeing to the addition, noting that there was no conclusive evidence about whether the question would deter people from filling out the census form. This lack of knowledge about the impact is one of the reasons cited by organizations and states for opposing the citizenship question. The Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, with a sample of approximately 3,000 respondents, annually asks a citizenship question, so there is another source for immigrant status information.