- Not enactedThe President has not signed this bill
- The house has not voted
- The senate has not voted
Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental AffairsIntroducedJanuary 24th, 2019
- senate Committees
What is Senate Bill S. 201?
Cost of Senate Bill S. 201
In-Depth: Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) reintroduced this bill from the 115th Congress to prohibit the Commerce Secretary from including a question about citizenship or immigration status on the U.S. Census and require each decennial census to count each state’s total population:
“There is no need to continue wasting American taxpayer dollars in costly legal battles. Congress should act now and put an end to this charade created by the Trump Administration. The U.S. census is not a tool to rally the President’s base. It is meant to be an unvarnished, accurate headcount of every single individual living each state for the purposes of allocating federal resources to address public health, education, and national security among others, and to determine Congressional apportionment. This administration’s anti-immigrant agenda should not take over a constitutionally mandated count of every person living in the country. I will continue fight against this nonsense proposal to stoke fear and force immigrants into the shadows, and push legislation to address this urgent situation to ensure we get an accurate census.”
Senate Democratic Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer adds that the Census is a critical tool for policymaking whose impartiality needs to be maintained:
“The point of the American Census is to methodically and scientifically count all those who are in this nation, not to purposely intimidate and scare people from participating. The stakes could not be higher for our cities and states, which rely on the Census to set the levels at which they receive vital federal aid on countless programs that help our transportation, housing, social services and infrastructure. I’m proud to support this critical legislation that will protect the U.S. Census from being subverted by the Trump administration for political purposes and make sure that everyone is counted.”
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination and one of this bill’s cosponsors, adds, “Adding a citizenship question to the census is nothing more than a blatant attempt to scare immigrant communities. We cannot stand for it.”
Writing in The Intercept, Sam Adler-Bell argues that the citizenship question would harm young people, minorities, and urban communities:
“Beyond the politics, a citizenship question would cause real, material harm to young people, Latinos, Asians, and city-dwellers. These communities are more likely to be undercounted (even more so than they already tend to be) because they are more likely to live in households with noncitizens. A more severe census undercount in these communities will impact have a devastating impact on federal aid. Congress allocates $675 billion in annual federal funds on the basis of census data. Medicaid distributes $312 billion; the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, distributes $69.5 billion; Medicare Part B distributes $64.2 billion; and Section 8 housing distributes $38.3 billion. By undercounting undocumented immigrants and sewing fear in their families, the Trump administration will redirect federal funding away from the neediest. And because the census is used to apportion congressional seats and statehouse districts, undercounted populations will be further disenfranchised and left more unable to rectify these harms. Punishing poor and brown communities in this way is not an unintended side effect of the administration’s approach to the decennial count; it’s the purpose.”
This bill’s opponents argue that the citizenship question is merely a way of finding out an important piece of information about American residents, just the as the existing questions about name, sex, race, and homeownership status do. In his memo announcing the citizenship question, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross wrote:
“Asking the citizenship question of 100 percent of the population gives each respondent the opportunity to provide an answer. This may eliminate the need for the Census Bureau to have to impute an answer for millions of people. For the approximately 90 percent of the population who are citizens, this question is no additional imposition. And for the approximately 70 percent of non-citizens who already answer this question accurately on the ACS, the question is no additional imposition since Census responses by law may only be used anonymously and for statistical purposes.”
In a written statement, Dept. of Justice spokeswoman Kelly Laco said, argued that reinstating a citizenship question on the 2020 Census would be a “legal and reasonable decision” by the federal government. However, ACLU attorney Dale Ho argued that the evidence presented at a district court hearing on the citizenship question revealed that the Trump administration introduced the citizenship question in an effort to reduce Census participation by minorities, immigrants, and other vulnerable populations.
Of Note: In March 2018, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced that the 2020 decennial census would ask about immigration status — the first time the Census has asked about this issue in 70 years. Immediately after the announcement, census experts and advocates condemned the move as a politically motivated effort to undermine the Census’ accuracy by discouraging immigrants and their families from participating.
From 1890 to 1950, the Census routinely asked all U.S. residents citizenship questions. In 1960, the issue of citizenship was only indirectly addressed. From 1970 to 2000, only a sample of the U.S. population was asked about citizenship. Finally, from 2000 onward, citizenship and all other “long form” questions were moved to the annual American Community Survey (ACS), which is sent to just under four million people in the U.S. each year.
New York, along with 17 other states, several cities, and civil rights groups, sued the Commerce Dept. — which oversees the Census Bureau — in order to block the proposed citizenship question. In mid-January 2019, a U.S. District Judge ordered the Trump administration to halt its plans to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. However, the administration is pressuring the Supreme Court to review the case and decide whether a question about citizenship can be included in the 2020 Census. In a closed-door meeting in mid-February 2019, the Court voted to fast-track review the ruling — the first time it’s done so since 2004. Arguments in the case are scheduled for the week of April 22.
- Sponsoring Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) Press Release
- Indivisible Press Release (In Favor)
- CREDO Action Petition (In Favor)
- Wall Street Journal Op-Ed
- The Intercept
- The Atlantic (Context)
- NPR (Context)
- Washington Post (Context)
- Rockefeller Institute of Government (Context)
Summary by Lorelei Yang(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / tattywelshie)