The U.S. Census may seem like a normal survey to a lot of people, but it is actually an enormously important process required by the U.S. Constitution to occur every 10 years. True to form, Trump is now using the Census to instill fear in immigrant communities and advance his anti-immigrant agenda. The Trump administration recently announced that they would add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, a move that would result in a severe undercounting of our population.
In this resource find out:
- What the Census is and why it is important
- What will happen if the citizenship question is added to the Census
- What you can do to protect the Census
The Census takes place every 10 years (as mandated by Article I, Section II of the Constitution) and is used to count every resident that lives in this country. The primary goal of the Census is to get an accurate count of the U.S. population in order to make decisions about congressional representation and allocation of resources.
An accurate Census count is absolutely necessary because of how the federal government and others use that data. Census counts are used to decide how many congressional seats and electoral college votes each state gets. It is also used to determine the amount of federal funding allocated to states for services like infrastructure, schools, and hospitals. The data is also published and used by businesses, universities, non-profits, and other organizations for a wide variety of research purposes.
The Justice Department purportedly needs citizenship information from the Census in order to enforce the Voting Rights Act, claiming that the citizenship data will be used to prevent voter fraud—a problem that simply does not exist. At a time when the federal government, and particularly the Jeff Sessions-led Justice Department, has repeatedly attacked immigrants through racist rhetoric and harmful policies, it is clear that this move is politically motivated. In fact, voter suppression enthusiast Kris Kobach is taking credit for suggesting this idea to the Trump administration in the first place, so we know that their goal is definitely not to protect voting rights.
Asking about citizenship will discourage participation from immigrant communities. Former directors of the U.S. Census Bureau say that this would result in “a reduced rate of response overall and an increase in inaccurate responses.” The mission of the Census Bureau is “to serve as the leading source of quality data about the nation's people and economy.” (Notice that says “the nation’s people,” not citizens.) As the statement from the Bureau’s former directors make clear, a citizenship question undermines that goal.
Including a citizenship question in the Census will discourage responses from undocumented immigrants out of fear that disclosing such information might result in immigration enforcement against themselves or their families. As a result, states with large immigrant populations like California, Texas, New York, Florida, New Jersey, and Illinois will have their populations undercounted and could, therefore, lose Congressional seats and billions of dollars in federal funding. Furthermore, this means that any research that uses Census data would be using faulty data and be unreliable.
Asking a citizenship question is an attack on immigrant communities. In the current political climate, undocumented immigrants are already afraid of public exposure for fear of deportation. No immigrant would volunteer their non-citizen status without thinking that the information might be used against them. This will result in lower participation rates, which is exactly what the Trump administration wants. This move sends a loud and clear message from the federal government that immigrants do not count and are unwelcome here.
Senator Menendez (D-NJ) introduced S.2580 to prohibit a citizenship question on the Census and Representative Meng (D-NY) has announced that she will introduce a similar bill in the House. But with anti-immigrant Republicans controlling both chambers of Congress, it is unlikely that either of these will become law.
The best place to fight this is in the courts. Within a day, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed a lawsuit to challenge the citizenship question as unconstitutional. The Constitution calls for “actual enumeration” of the population in every state and Becerra’s lawsuit argues that this question violates the requirement of “actual enumeration.” New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has also a multi-state lawsuit against the Trump administration on behalf of the states of New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington; the lawsuit has also been joined by the District of Columbia, and as well as the cities of Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Providence, San Francisco, and Seattle. If your state is not among this list, it could help strengthen the case by joining the lawsuit.
Call your State Attorney General and ask them to sue the Trump administration.
Call Your State Attorney General Now
Caller: Hello! My name is <YOUR NAME> and I’m calling from [part of state]. I’m calling to ask Attorney General <AG NAME> to join the multi-state lawsuit against the Trump administration for adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census.
Staffer: Thank you for your call. I will pass this along to the Attorney General.
Caller: Yes, please do. 11 states have already sued and <YOUR STATE> should be next. The citizenship question will completely undermine the Census and lead to a severe undercount, which will have detrimental effects on redistricting and the allocation of federal funds. This is also a direct threat to our immigrant communities that we must protect against.