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Census Questions Individual’s Citizenship

U.S. Department of Commerce New Citizenship Question in 2020 Census Incites Controversy.

The National LGBTQ Task Force

Anthony Karambelas, Staff Reporter

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Never a dull moment with the Trump administration; this time: an addition to the 2020 U.S. Census Bureau to include a question of citizenship.

Announced March 26 by Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross Jr., the new question is arriving late in the drafting process for the decennial census. In fact, its delayed arrival means it has not been tested for the 2020 census, currently ongoing in Providence, R.I.

A primarily Democratic coalition of seventeen state attorney generals and seven cities are currently wrapped up in a lawsuit regarding this question, and the case is expected to land in the Supreme Court. 

Unknown to many, the Trump administration is not “adding” a citizenship question, but merely resurrecting one that, according to White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders, “has been included in every census since 1965, with the exception of 2010, when it was removed.”

Further, Sanders stated that the question was included so as to allow “the Department of Justice to protect voters and specifically help us better comply with the Voting Rights Act.” 

The ongoing lawsuit points out that this claim is fundamentally misleading, as Trump is currently using the citizenship question as a marketing tool for his re-election campaign.

Objections to the citizenship mostly concern additional costs of adding the question so late and the anti-immigrant nature of the question. The citizenship question invites the possibility of nonresponse from undocumented immigrants, compromising the accuracy of the final report.

“Adding this question will result in a bad census—deeply flawed population data that will skew public and private sector decisions to ensure equal representation, allocate government resources and anticipate economic growth opportunities—for the next 10 years,” said Vanita Gupta, Chief Executive of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and Deputy Attorney General for the Obama administration.

How will “citizenship” affect nonresponse rates in the 2020 Census? The Department of Commerce has conducted little research on this topic. In 2007, three years preceding the 2010 U.S. Census, the American Community Survey–a monthly survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, which includes the “citizenship” question–reported that “changing the U.S. citizenship status question to include year of naturalization and referencing U.S. citizen parents did not increase the nonresponse rate to the U.S. citizenship status item.”

However, adding the question to a decennial census could pose unforeseen problems and the U.S. government’s lack of research on this issue raises red flags.

Citizenship is not the only question of controversy in the draft of the 2020 census. Last year, the LGBTQ community protested when a 2020 Census draft briefly included a sexual orientation and gender identity in its index, only to remove it as what the U.S. Census Bureau referred to as an “inadvertent” error.

After months of lobbying and campaigning, mostly by the LGBTQ National Task Force, the U.S. Bureau reversed its decision. 

Alex Morash Media and PR Director for the Task Force told University Times, “The Task Force believes the Census should have a sexual orientation question and a gender identity question. It is important to have our community counted to access federal funds that are tied to census data.”

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