Update: As noted here, the Census Bureau’s own Center for Economic Studies has concluded in an August 2018 report that adding a question about citizenship status to the 2020 Census “would lead to a ….lower quality population count.”
The National Academies of Sciences-Engineering-Medicine also filed a comment cogently laying out the case for why adding the citizenship question to Census 2020 would “impair the quality of the 2020 census as a whole.” Read their comment here.
Census 2020, the Constitutionally-mandated decennial count of the U.S. population, is nearly around the corner.
Obtaining an accurate count through the census is critical to the correct apportionment of Congressional representatives among the states, as well as of federal funds for public education, housing, healthcare, housing, transportation, road construction, community development block grant funds, etc. Additionally, census data is widely used by the public, private, academic and nonprofit sectors across the country to help inform social science and other research. Moreover, the data is useful in business, as highlighted in these recent editorial pieces in Forbes and Bloomberg.
Because accuracy is the most important aspect of the census, immigration status is irrelevant. Whether one is a U.S. citizen, a permanent resident, a person with an application in process, a person with Temporary Protected Status or DACA, or even lacking immigration documents altogether, ideally, everyone in the U.S. should be counted.
But Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has proposed adding a question asking if census respondents are citizens or noncitizens.
In the current U.S. immigration climate, the addition of this question guarantees that the census will undercount the foreign-born population living in the U.S. Even U.S. citizens living with noncitizens may well decline to answer Census 2020. In an era of eroding due process rights and messages of outright hostility and disparagement of immigrants from the highest echelons of the administration, it would be unsurprising that immigrant families would distrust a Census that to them appears to be ferreting out who is a citizen and who isn’t, while also knowing down to block-level data where they live.
An undercount will hurt everyone in the U.S., including people in Maine. At least seventeen states have sued the Federal Government to block the addition of the citizenship question to Census 2020. (Maine is not one of them). Those cases are still ongoing.
However, there is also a public comment period providing an opportunity to oppose the addition of citizenship question to Census 2020. Comments are due by August 7, 2018.
Several national organizations have made it easy to submit comments. Here’s a link to one of them from the nonpartisan League of Women Voters.
PLEASE CONSIDER SUBMITTING A COMMENT. It will only take a minute of your time to do. The comment is already written, but you can also customize it before you click “submit”.
The Census Bureau has not asked about citizenship status since the 1950 census, when the question was removed following prior misuse of census data (it was used to help identify Japanese Americans for internment during World War II). That was a wise course that should continue if the nation wants an accurate population count. MeBIC has submitted a comment opposing inclusion of the citizenship question.