White House defends citizenship question on US Census form as standard practice

White House defends citizenship question on US Census form as standard practice

In a controversial move, the Commerce Department announced Monday that the question of citizenship will again be included in the 2020 Census. The choice to add the question comes in the wake of a "request by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to add a question on citizenship status to the 2020 decennial census".

While the Commerce Department insisted in its announcement that the citizenship question-which was removed from the census in 1950-is meant to "help enforce the Voting Rights Act (VRA)", experts quickly dismissed this justification as a "farce", given the Trump administration's systemic and ongoing attack on voting rights nationwide.

Opponents of the change to the Census worry that the administration's aggressive rhetoric has already made immigrants less willing to respond to government surveys, and that adding a question which asks if they are United States citizens will further depress their participation. In a statement, Pelosi said a citizenship question would terrify already vulnerable people and "cause traditionally undercounted communities to be even further underrepresented, financially excluded and left behind".

Census data is used to decide how federal funds are spent and how congressional districts are drawn, among other things. Xavier Becerra and Alex Padilla also accused the Trump administration of trying to "hijack the 2020 census for political purposes".

"The Census is supposed to count everyone", Healey said in a statement.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the data could help identify potential voting rights violations by providing more accurate information than now available about the proportion of a congressional district's population that is actually eligible to vote by virtue of holding citizenship.

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As Common Dreams reported in January, census researchers have warned that there is already widespread fear among immigrants that any information they provide to the government will be used by the Trump administration to arrest and deport them.

In the op-ed, Bacerra said that California, with its large immigrant population, could be disproportionately affected by depressed census participation. An aide to Healey said she already meant to join a multi-state lawsuit, led by the NY attorney general Eric Schneiderman. The new citizenship question would be a departure from a census that has enumerated USA citizens as well as non-U.S. citizens since 1790, in order to get an accurate count of actual funding needed for people in various communities.

Several Republican senators voiced support for including the question, having previously sent a letter to the Department of Commerce urging the question be reinstated. A group of 19 Democratic attorneys-general told Mr Ross this month that including the question would be unconstitutional. "The Trump Administration's plan to insert a new, untested question on citizenship will increase costs for American taxpayers and decrease the accuracy of the census itself".

Citizenship questions have appeared on the census in the past and are included on more frequent population surveys that are administered by the Census Bureau.

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