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

beSpacific 2018-01-10

ProPublica: “Two members of Congress are pushing back against a proposal by the Justice Department to add a question on citizenship to the 2020 census. In a letter sent to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who has the authority to decide on census questions, Reps. Jose Serrano and Grace Meng, both New York Democrats, call on Ross to reject the proposal. “Adopting this question on citizenship and legal status will negatively affect response rates, jeopardize the accuracy of the collected surveys, and deter many people from participating,” the letter states. Both sit on the House Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee, which has oversight of the census. Separately, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-NY, warned in a statement that adding the citizenship question “will increase the cost of the census by hundreds of millions of dollars in non-response follow-up, the most expensive component of the decennial census operation.”

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. The letter argues that the DOJ needs better citizenship data to better enforce the Voting Rights Act “and its important protections against racial discrimination in voting.”