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The Census Citizenship Question is Unconstitutional. Tell Your MoC to Speak Out.

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 announced in April that they would add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, a move that would result in a severe undercounting of our population.

What is the Census and why is it important?

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.

What will happen if the citizenship question is added to the Census?

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 and other marginalized communities 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.

What can you do to protect the Census?

With anti-immigrant Republicans controlling both chambers of Congress, it is unlikely that they will pass anything that would block the citizenship question. However, there are still opportunities for your MoC to show their support for immigrant communities and opposition to the citizenship question:

  • In the Senate, Senator Menendez (D-NJ) introduced the Every Person Counts Act (S.2580), which would prohibit a citizenship question on the Census. There are currently 20 cosponsors, all Democrats. If your Senator has not joined as a cosponsor, tell them to show up for immigrants and cosponsor the bill.
  • If your MoC has not spoken out against the Census citizenship question, tell them to speak out against this latest attack on immigrants

At the end of the day, the best way that we fight back against this attack on the Census and any attacks on immigrants by this community is by ousting anti-immigrant Republicans from office and electing progressive, pro-immigrant Democrats to Congress this November.