Immigration Law

Trump Justice Department Pushes for Citizenship Question on Census, Alarming Experts

Justin Elliott, ProPublica, Dec. 29, 2017 - "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 — from how congressional seats are distributed around the country to where hundreds of billions of federal dollars are spent. The DOJ made the request in a previously unreported letter, dated Dec. 12 and obtained by ProPublica, from DOJ official Arthur Gary to the top official at the Census Bureau, which is part of the Commerce Department. ... 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. “This is a recipe for sabotaging the census,” said Arturo Vargas, a member of the National Advisory Committee of the Census and the executive director of NALEO Educational Fund, a Latino advocacy group. “When you start adding last-minute questions that are not tested — how will the public understand the question? How much will it suppress response rates?” The 2010 census included a handful of questions covering age, sex, race, Hispanic origin, household relationship and owner/renter status — but not citizenship. “People are not going to come out to be counted because they’re going to be fearful the information would be used for negative purposes,” said Steve Jost, a former top bureau official during the 2010 census. “This line about enforcing voting rights is a new and scary twist.” He noted that since the first census in 1790, the goal has been to count everyone in the country, not just citizens."