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Dems Call for Senate Hearing Over Census Citizenship Question

by Countable | 3.30.18

UPDATE - March 30, 2018: The addition of a question over immigration status to the 2020 census has four Democratic senators calling for a hearing on the upcoming national head count.

  • The letter - signed by Sens. Kamala Harris of California, Tom Carper of Delaware, Gary Peters of Michigan, and Claire McCaskill of Missouri - was directed to the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which has oversight of the U.S. Census Bureau.

  • "We are concerned that the addition of the citizenship question is tainted by improper political considerations," the letter says. It continues:

"DOJ requested the addition of this question in December 2017 based on an unsupported assertion that citizenship data are needed to enforce Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act even though the last time a citizenship question was asked was before the passage of the Voting Rights Act, and no similar requests have been made to support enforcement."

—Josh Herman

Countable's original story, and updates, appear below.


UPDATE March 28, 2018: The New York Times reports that 10 states have now joined with New York in a multi-state lawsuit against the Trump administration for their plan to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census.

The states joining New York so far are: Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Washington. California has filed suit separately, bringing the grand total to 12.

Attorney General Maura Healey of Massachusetts told the Times, “The census is supposed to count everyone, This is a blatant and illegal attempt by the Trump administration to undermine that goal, which will result in an undercount of the population and threaten federal funding for our state and cities.”

Administration officials maintain that citizenship questions have been included in "the census" for decades. Citizenship questions have been included in the American Community Survey conducted by the Census Bureau, but participation is voluntary. No citizenship question has been included in the decennial Census, participation in which is required by law, since 1960.

—Asha Sanaker

UPDATE March 27, 2018: Just days prior to the March 31 deadline to announce the final list of upcoming 2020 Census questions, reports Politico, the Commerce Department has announced they have agreed to a Justice Department request, and will be including a question on immigration status in the next census.

The Justice Department maintains that the question is a necessary tool in enforcement of the Voting Rights Act, but critics maintain it is an inappropriate means of rallying the president's anti-immigrant base. They argue that it will depress both immigrant participation, as well as participation by citizens with undocumented immigrant family members, leading to an inaccurate count.

The State of California immediately filed suit, announced California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman also announced that he would lead a multi-state lawsuit against the change. Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who now heads the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, also threatened to sue.

The census is used to fuel nationwide redistricting every 10 years, as well as apportion billions of dollars in federal funding. Liberal states with high undocumented immigrant populations could be strongly effected by changes in both areas.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross made a statement regarding his decision, insisting that there was no evidence that more people would not participate due to the change, which side steps the issue that the Census Bureau historically works extensively to increase participation in the constitutionally-mandated count:

"The reinstatement of a citizenship question will not decrease the response rate of residents who already decided not to respond. And no one provided evidence that there are residents who would respond accurately to a decennial census that did not contain a citizenship question but would not respond if it did (although many believed that such residents had to exist), While it is possible this belief is true, there is no information available to determine the number of people who would in fact not respond due to a citizenship question being added."

—Asha Sanaker

Countable's original story appears below


What’s the story?

The Department of Justice wants the Census Bureau to ask about citizenship during the 2020 census.

Why are we talking about the 2020 census now?

As NPR explained, the Census Bureau "is preparing to conduct a routine field test of its 2020 questions later this year, after the final wording of those questions is due to Congress by the end of March."

Why does it matter?

Since 1960, the census has avoided the topic of citizenship.

But in a letter to the Census Bureau, a Justice Department official argues that "reinstating a question on citizenship will best enable the Department to protect all American citizens’ voting rights."

Census experts worry that adding a question about citizenship could cut compliance and raise costs.

"It certainly raises the level of risk of getting a bad count or a count that doesn't that fairly represent everyone," John Thompson, a former Census Bureau director, told NPR.

A group of Democratic senators went further with their criticism. In a letter to the Commerce Department, which oversees the Census Bureau, the lawmakers called the DOJ request "deeply troubling."

"This chilling effect could lead to broad inaccuracies across the board, from how congressional districts are drawn to how government funds are distributed," the lawmakers wrote.

What do you think?

Do you support this change, or not? Will you or members of your community choose not to participate in the Census because of this change?

Hit Take Action and tell your reps, then share your thoughts below.

—Josh Herman

Related Reading

(Photo Credit: liveslow / iStock)

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(240)
  • Beth
    03/27/2018
    ···

    I for one will NOT be answering this question. My family arrived on a boat as immigrants (since I am not Native American) in the 1600’s. I am tired of this government bullying my neighbors because of their citizenship status. We need immigration laws but we have lost ALL compassion to our fellow man (and woman).

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  • Kathy
    01/11/2018
    ···

    What kind of questions? If the questions can be avoided, people will. If they can lie, they will. Will the questions address voting or political leaning? Dates of immigration? Who’s going to use the data? Politicians to gerrymander more districts? To cut funding to inner city schools? Who’s going to analyze the data, with the Trump administration cutting or underfunding so many departments? Ugh!

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  • Gerald
    01/11/2018
    ···

    It would be used somehow for pure political reasons. First, no illegals would report that status, either avoiding the census or lying. If they avoid the census, states like California may lose electoral votes. If they lie, the immigrant now committed a crime and may be deported. If they actually report their status as undocumented, they can expect Trump’s knock on their door soon after. The republicans need an enemy to remain in power and they need yo be driven from office in2018 for the good of us all.

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  • George
    01/11/2018
    ···

    Please do not allow the Census to contain a question on citizenship. The current climate infers that anyone not claiming to be a citizen will be targeted for deportation, or if they do and then it is found out they are not, they lied on a federal form and will be deported. How will this insure the mandate for an accurate count? What will the consequences be for future redistricting? For federal programs to the states and localities? It is no wonder Americans no longer trust their government, because it cannot be trusted to keep the system going in the most fundamental way without hyper-partisan politics entering the bloodstream. Bring back normalcy!

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  • OlderNWiser
    01/11/2018
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    Harassing immigrants and placing them in yet another no-win situation is wrong. This administration has never met a scapegoat it wouldn’t harm. This is another way to punish blue states.

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  • Jake.bennett34
    03/27/2018
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    I can't understand why this would even be a problem. It's a census. Of the population of America. Should it then not include how many of it's inhabitants are citizens?

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  • Donna
    01/11/2018
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    Really? The DOJ -- the one run by the racist, bigoted, anti-immigrant of any kind, suppress voter rights for everyone NOT male and white, AG -- wants me to believe the citizen question should be added back to the census to 'best enable the Department to protect all American citizens’ voting rights'? They obviously think the overall American electorate is either stupid or complacent. Over the last year we have proven we are neither. When will this nonsense stop? Stop trying to remake this country in YOUR close-minded, short-sighted, racist view and LEAVE THE CENSUS ALONE. With the failure of the corrupt, wasteful and just plain stupid Voter Fraud Commission, this appears to be another attempt to gather information of potential targets for the ongoing harassment of individuals in this country. Not every resident in this country is a citizen, most by choice. The Constitution instructs the government to count ALL free PEOPLE RESIDING in the country every 10 years. It does not require any determination of citizenship. In this toxic, divisive, fear-mongering, hateful environment we are living, doing so will only cause more fear-mongering, hate and division. But sadly, I am sure that is their goal. What have we allowed our government to become?

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  • Nancy
    01/11/2018
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    This is another way to harass immigrants. Not to mention, nonparticipation could happen and that would result in an inaccurate count and inaccurate apportionment of Congressional districts.

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  • Daryl
    01/11/2018
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    Why not? Every time someone on TV or radio talks about illegal immigrants, they always use 11 million. So why not see how many actual citizens, illegal immigrants, and legal permanent residents this country has. There is nothing racist or wrong with determining all the different legal status of the people who are in this country. By the way you only have to answer how many people live in your household. The Constitution only requires a count of the people, not the other crap they put in the census.

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  • Rich
    01/12/2018
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    First, why do we take a census at all ? Answer - it is required in order to determine the representation in congress. There are a fixed number of representatives, and they are apportioned based on the number of citizens. Yes, CITIZENS. Counting others whether legal, illegal, visitors, etc. skews the data. Now the count is not without error as no count of this magnitude can be perfect, however it should be as good as we can make it for the intended purpose. If one state "loads up" on non citizens before the census, they will have disproportional representation in the house. There do need to be safeguards against using this data to deport, and of course some will lie anyway, however the legal goal of one person one vote can not be reasonably met without at least an attempt to count citizens in the census.

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  • Eric
    03/28/2018
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    This question is absolutely mandatory. Without it the census has no value whatsoever! Illegal immigrants are not citizens and therefore do should not count towards redistricting. Without this question there is no way to know how many citizens live where!

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  • Karen
    01/11/2018
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    Why is this Administration messing around with this type of concern? Waste of time and taxpayer money. What’s next? Party affiliation? Find out if there was a conspiracy against the United States in 2016.

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  • verymary
    01/11/2018
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    How many heavy-handed methods will the Trump Administration employ in its desire to get rid of everybody who's not an obscenely wealthy white "Christian" male (or his adoring spouse)?

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  • Penny
    01/11/2018
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    Stop abusing government agencies to further racist ideology. The census bureau for god’s sake!

    Like (15)
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  • John
    03/28/2018
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    The citizenship question HAS been included since the 1960's with the exception of 2010. It is important to include the question because it has an impact on federal funding.

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  • Walter
    03/30/2018
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    Citizenship is a proper question for a census. End of story.

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  • Kayla
    01/11/2018
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    Adding a question of citizenship will not benefit the census bureau in any way. Either people will lie to protect themselves, or avoid participating. This will lead to large inaccuracies in the count, and higher costs in additional measures taken to get the needed information. This change will cause more harm that good.

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  • Karan
    03/27/2018
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    Why should we go out of our way and cancel a question that allows to determine how many potential voters there just because some illegal aliens will be scared?

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  • Kenneth
    01/12/2018
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    YES! Democrats are worried about votes and money! How about you start worrying about a better America! Stop promoting lies and fraud so the working, tax paying Americans get a fair shake for a change.

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  • MJDalio
    03/29/2018
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    All the states that are up in arms appear to have large illegal immigrant problems. We the tax payers have no responsibility to fund or support illegals in this country! In addition representation to the federal government is determined by US Citizens per district not total population. Illegals are not citizens and do not get represented as well as those that are here on visas!

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