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  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
  • The house has not voted
      house Committees
      House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
    IntroducedOctober 30th, 2018

What is it?

This bill — the Authorizing Moderated Enumeration Responses Including Citizenship Acquisition Act (AMERICA) Act — would make the penalty for refusing or neglecting to answer a decennial census question apply only to questions that the government needs an answers for to ensure an accurate count of citizen and noncitizen populations. This bill would take effect with the 2020 decennial census.

Impact

People who would refuse to answer the Census’ citizenship question; and the U.S. Census Bureau.

Cost

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-Depth: Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) introduced this bill to require people to answer the citizenship question that will be added to the 2020 census.

While he wasn’t writing in direct support of this bill, Former Rep. George Nethercutt (R-WA) expressed support for making Census participation mandatory in 2020, given the controversy surrounding the new citizenship question:

“Completing the Census form is a civic duty, as valuable to society as serving on juries, paying taxes or obtaining a driver’s license… [C]onsidering the controversy surrounding the citizenship question that will likely be part of the 2020 census and the dislike for President Trump, the likelihood of a voluntary census is slim without… enforcement mechanisms… [T]he U.S. Department of Justice asked for the now-controversial citizenship question so that it would have information necessary to enforce the federal Voting Rights Act. Since noncitizens cannot vote anyway, calls from them that object to the citizenship question seem to be an effort to politicize the advocacy question. Why shouldn’t Americans have accurate information about the numbers of undocumented immigrants present within U.S. borders, how many citizens reside in the U.S. and other information elicited by the survey? A common-sense citizenship question will provide helpful information.”

The Trump administration has not made any statements about this specific bill, but White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has stated that the administration is interested in ensuring that individuals participate in the census:

“Look, the goal is to have data that we can use for specific thing. And we think that having accurate data is important. I'm not aware of a mass campaign to start fining individuals, but we certainly want people to follow the law and we want them -- whether it's the census or anything else, people should follow the law, and the law should be enforced."

While no one organizations have spoken in direct opposition to this bill, it’s worth noting that this is a step towards making the census more voluntary, which could reduce participation. Currently, participation in census surveys is around 97-98 percent, and a 2011 Census Bureau report stated that testing making the American Community Survey (ACS) survey voluntary in 2002-03 led to a participation rate drop of over 20 percent. The Census Bureau further noted that making the ACS voluntary would drive costs up by at least 38 percent and lead to lower participation from communities that have historically lower participation rates:

“Perhaps of greatest concern, the use of voluntary collection methods had a negative impact on traditionally low response areas that will compromise our ability to produce reliable data for these areas and for small population groups such as Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, and American Indians and Alaska Natives.”

Additionally, while the Census Bureau has the authority to fine individuals for not participating in surveys, it isn’t a prosecuting agency, and its FAQ for the ACS states:

“The Census Bureau is not a prosecuting agency. Failure to provide information is not likely to result in a fine. The Census Bureau staff work to achieve cooperation and high response rates by helping the public understand that responding to the ACS is a matter of civic responsibility, and prefers to encourage participation in this manner rather than prosecution.”


Of Note: Currently, the fine for refusing to answer a Census Bureau survey question can be as much as $5,000, and willfully giving false answers can be punished with a fine of up to $500. However, the Census Bureau doesn’t tend to levy fines against people who don’t respond to the ACS. According to the Bureau in 2014, no one had been prosecuted for failing to respond to a survey since the 1970 census.

Calls to boycott the 2020 census have been circulating on social media since the addition of a citizenship question was announced in March 2018. Prior to this change, the last time that all U.S. households were asked about citizenship status on a census form was 1950. NPR’s Hansi Lo Wong called the citizenship question chilling for immigrants’ participation in the census, with significant ramifications for communities:

“A lot of census watchers, former census bureau directors, other census experts have said that they are very, very concerned that there already is a lot of anti-immigrant sentiment, that already folks are very concerned about giving personal information to the federal government, that now if there is a citizenship question added as the Commerce Department is announcing that ... a lot of immigrants, not only those who are undocumented, but anyone who maybe has ties to folks who are undocumented, may not want to ... participate in the census and therefore they would not be counted, and that has direct impacts on how people are represented in this country. All census numbers are used to reapportion seats in Congress, specifically the House of Representatives, and also these numbers have an impact on how billions of dollars are distributed around the country ... from the federal level all the way down to the local level of how school districts figure out how to divide up resources. So this could have a really big impact if immigrants are not participating in the census in 2020."

Media:

Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / tattywelshie)

AKA

AMERICA Act

Official Title

To amend title 13, United States Code, to provide that the penalty for refusing or neglecting to answer a decennial census question shall apply only to the extent necessary to allow the Government to obtain the information needed for its enumeration of the population, as required by the Constitution of the United States, as well as the enumeration of its citizen and noncitizen populations, and for other purposes.

    Yes. And no the government shouldn’t ask questions about your firearms, not that it would matter.
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    How about the government asks about your guns, and how you secure them?
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    There's no penalty for any OTHER question.
    Like (226)
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    This question should not even be on the form, if a immigrants don’t want to answer due to legal issues they will not!
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    There should be a penalty (severe) for constantly lying and committing crimes while in office. Send trump and his cronies back where they belong. Andy1: spot on. The second amendment specifically calls for regulation. To not do so would be patently unconstitutional.
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    Absolutely not. This question is meant to intimidate and will be harmful to the communities. This question lacks nuance and doesn’t understand people are in multiple legal statuses within this country. This question was thrown out before because of its white nationalist roots and should be thrown out again.
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    There is no need, other than ignorance and xenophobia, for this question.
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    Better question: why is there a citizenship question at all? It’s not necessary.
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    Our Census is aq legal document. Knowingly making false, or misleading statements must have a penalty. Not answering is not acceptable. Any failure to answer must be referred to ICE, presuming a default no.
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    It's almost worth voting against this bill just for its overly cutesy acronym. But on a more serious note, I doubt that imposing such a fine would increase the accuracy of the census. It's likely to DECREASE the accuracy, since people will be forced to answer a question that they don't want to tell the truth on.
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    This is a first amendment issue. You cannot compel someone to state one thing or another.
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    The U.S. Constitution requires a census every 10 years of all persons living in the country for the purpose of apportioning seats in the U.S. House of Representatives (Article I, sec. 2, clause 3) among the states. The Constitution explicitly requires an “actual Enumeration” of “all persons,” imposing on the federal government the duty to count the “whole number of persons in each State.” Both Republican and Democratic administrations, through the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), have confirmed unequivocally that the Constitution requires a count of all persons living in the United States on Census Day, regardless of citizenship status. Moreover, in adopting the 14th Amendment, Congress rejected proposals to allocate seats in the House of Representatives based on voter-eligible population alone, rather than total population. Supreme Court rulings affirming the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal representation require that congressional districts have equal numbers of people, so the census population numbers also are used to draw congressional district lines. Public officials also rely on census counts to draw state and local voting districts. Listen, getting and having quality data on all our population is of utmost importance. However, the reality is we already know about our citizens – the Census Bureau collects quality data on citizenship through the ACS. Collecting data via a sample survey, both sufficiently provides data on our non- citizen population, and is statistically sound. It is also less costly and less burdensome to the public. Demographic data is VERY useful to scientists and public officials, but this “citizenship” question is still highly problematic and was removed before for several reasons. The last time a citizenship question has been on a census survey sent to 100% of households was the 1950 census. The Census Bureau decided to remove it. In the 1940s, the U.S. Census Bureau began testing techniques to improve sampling and created a different "sample questionnaire" that would go to a smaller percentage of the country — forming the basis for what would eventually be called the ACS. In 1960 in part because innovations in survey methods revealed a more accurate and less burdensome way of counting the country's non-citizen population. "By the 1950s, the Census Bureau statisticians realized they get better results from a well-designed sample than they do from a complete count like the census," said Margo Anderson, who wrote a book on the history of the census. Thus, when the decennial census came up again in 1960, the citizenship questions were no longer needed because citizenship questions were asked on the sample questionnaire. Furthermore, when the Census Bureau was sued in 1980, the government argued at the time that "any effort to ascertain citizenship will inevitably jeopardize the overall accuracy of the population count" – an argument the bureau has consistently upheld over the years. Thus, we already have access to quality data on our citizens and non-citizens alike through the ACS and this effort will simply result in less accurate data. In fact, the Census Bureau’s own research today found that asking questions about citizenship caused an “unprecedented groundswell in confidentiality and data-sharing concerns among immigrants or those who live with immigrants.”3 In test settings from February through September 2017, survey respondents provided incomplete or incorrect information and were visibly nervous about immigration and citizenship questions. One Census Bureau interviewer reported that one respondent got up and left her alone in his apartment when the interviewer asked citizenship- related questions. Even though census data are protected under law from such disclosure, many people were concerned that their responses would be shared or disclosed even before the citizenship question was added. Even more so as a yes/no binary, because it ignores both the two types of citizens and all the possible reasons there are to live in the United States without being a citizen. Noncitizens include legal permanent residents, temporary migrants, undocumented immigrants and several other resident statuses. More than 3/4th of our 45 million non-citizen populations are here LEGALLY. A citizenship question has not been on a census survey sent to 100% of households since 1950. That is 70 years between two decennial census surveys with a planned citizenship question. Furthermore, the citizenship question used in 1950 is different than the one proposed for the 2020 Census. Thus, this is not a reinstatement of a citizenship question on the decennial census – this is in fact a new citizenship question that has not been tested on a survey in an environment that has dramatically changed since 1950. In a January 2018 letter to Secretary Ross, six former census directors said that every census is different and that the environment in which a census occurs is a significant factor.4 Small changes to the order of questions, wording, and instructions can have significant and often unexpected consequences for response rates and the quality and truthfulness of answers, they wrote. Furthermore, Secretary Ross himself told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee at an October 12, 2017 hearing that, “One of the problems with adding questions is it reduces response rates. It may seem counterintuitive, but the more things you ask in those forms, the less likely you are to get them in.” The Census Bureau’s own Census Scientific Advisory Committee also opposed the “last-minute inclusion” of a citizenship question in the 2020 Census in its recommendations following the committee’s 2018 Spring meeting. Noting that “the Census tradition has always been to collect evidence about the impact of a question before the question is added to the Census,” the committee expressed concerns about the “lack of adequate testing,” implications for the cost and for attitudes about the Census Bureau and concerns about confidentiality by adding the question, and the fact that “just because there is not clear evidence that adding the question would harm the census accuracy, this is not evidence that it will not.” The DOJ’s official request claimed that it needed ‘block level’ citizenship voting age population data, which are not currently available through the ACS, to determine violations of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act ("VRA") and to permit more effective enforcement of the Act. This claim is without merit. Since the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, DOJ has successfully and effectively enforced the VRA utilizing estimates of citizenship voting age population data provided by the Census Bureau since that time. The DOJ has neither lost nor failed to prosecute a case because it only had estimated data on the number of citizens in a particular district or jurisdiction. While it is true the Census Bureau must collect data from every household in order to produce ‘block level’ data for any demographic or socio-economic characteristic, over the last 50 years, DOJ has never asserted a need for data collected from every household for the purpose of enforcing the Voting Rights Act of 1965, until its request in December 2017. DOJ did not indicate a need for citizenship data collected from every household before the Secretary of Commerce submitted to Congress, in late March 2017, the topics to be included in the 2020 Census, as required by law. The fact is courts and the Justice Department have accepted these more-timely ACS estimates for decades. The ACS providing less accurate data on citizenship voting age population data is simply false. Citizen voting-age population data used for the Voting Rights Act are derived from the "5-year ACS estimates," which provide a larger sample size over the 5-year period and is comparable to the long- form census data, with the added benefit of being more current. In fact, after the 2010 Census, DOJ and civil rights groups were able to enforce and monitor compliance with the VRA successfully using citizenship data from the ACS, the part of the decennial census that collects a broader range of updated social and economic characteristics data. To sum it up, NO CITIZENSHIP QUESTION. It is detrimental to the purpose of the census.
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    No. It’s not a legitimate question. Read the constitution.
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    We are a country of immigrants. We need the new workers with their enthusiasm. Most of us came from somewhere else. Let's not be hypocrites.
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    Shouldn’t even be a thing, aren’t we just counting people or something? Continue that.
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    I consider it my civic duty to not answer
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    The citizenship question is unconstitutional. Citizens and non-citizens (even tourists in sales taxes) are required to pay taxes. Therefore the government has the obligation to serve all regardless of status. Therefore this citizenship question, at a time when, according to the Washington Post ICE is jailing people for being nonwhite citizens, is irrelevant. Revoke this citizenship question. I would like to point out that the fifth amendment protects your right to remain silent on any information that can and will be used against you, such as a citizenship question.
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    Yes. Immediate deportation.
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    I for one do not intend to answer that question. We are suppose to be taking a census of the number of people residing in the United States not trying to use it for policing.
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    H.R. 7106 - AKA the AMERICA ACT I STRONGLY support and recommend the passage of the HOUSE bill H.R. 7106 AKA the Authorizing Moderated Enumeration Responses Including Citizenship Acquisition Act (AMERICA) Act — would make the penalty for refusing or neglecting to answer a decennial census question apply only to questions that the government needs an answers for to ensure an accurate count of citizen and noncitizen populations. This bill would take effect with the 2020 decennial census. Full participation in the census is necessary to properly draw U.S. House districts, allocate government resources for social services, and generate an accurate picture of the U.S. population. Enforcing a pre-existing penalty for failure to respond to the census citizenship question serves these important goals. SneakyPete..... 👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻. 11*20*18.....
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