For the first time since the 1950 census, respondents will be asked to declare their citizenship.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross reported the decision Monday, and Democrats and immigrant advocacy and support groups instantaneously launched a vocal rebellion, as reported in the WSJ. Ross claimed that the question would yield citizenship data that would bolster the Voting Rights Act: the DOJ and courts reference this data to protect minority voting rights.
In fact, the citizenship question appears on the annual American Community Survey, which reaches less than 1% of the population, but the DOJ claims the data doesn’t have enough detail. By including it in the census, the question will be ideally answered by every US household. What is more, this question was included on the decennial census from 1820 to 1950.
Meanwhile, the Washington Post reported that the state of California, now followed by over a dozen more states, have filed suit against the Trump administration Monday night under the premise that the question violates the Constitution.
One of the major issues is that many believe the question will deter so many respondents that the accuracy of the census data is greatly at stake. Also, states with very large immigrant populations (California, New York, Illinois, and so on) may lose state and federal representation, electoral college votes, and population-based funding.
Another issue: the deadline for making changes to 2020 Census questions is April 1st. In response to the citizenship question being suggested so near the deadline, Democrats introduced bills in the House and Senate that would require more time and vetting – in essence, pushing the deadline even further back for future counts.
Along with the citizenship question announcement, the NYT reported how Ross was ready to address the inevitable uproar, primarily from Democrats, stating:
- Decades of experience with citizenship questions (on earlier censuses and other surveys) demonstrate that adding it to the 2020 census would not deter respondents.
- Many other democracies, from Australia to the UK, “routinely ask about citizenship in their head counts without any difficulty.”
These are two very important points. Citizenship questions are routine in most countries, and calling the addition of the question “unconstitutional” indicate that the census was “unconstitutional” from 1820 to 1950. With this, it’s difficult not to question the motives of the Democrats in uproar.