Census question on citizenship challenged in court

The U.S. Census bureau announced plans to include questions about citizenship on the 2020 Census. (Photo by U.S. Census Bureau.)

Washington is one of 19 states filing a legal challenge against the Trump administration’s decision to add a question about citizenship status in the 2020 U.S. Census.

The challenge, filed in a New York City federal court on Tuesday, alleges that the citizenship question will discourage undocumented residents from participating in the Census. California filed a similar lawsuit on Monday.

In a press statement, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said “the Census Bureau’s own research reveals asking people about their citizenship situation could significantly undermine its constitutional mandate: an accurate count of everyone in the United States, regardless of immigration status.”

In the same news release through Ferguson’s office, Gov. Jay Inslee added that “between under funding the 2020 Census and making changes that will suppress participation by already under-represented populations, it’s clear this administration is trying to sabotage a critical tool for making informed policy decisions and ensuring fair representation.”

OneAmerica, Seattle-based immigrant advocacy group, and Rep. Pramila Jayapal, shared similar concerns in their own press releases.

In her statement, Jayapal said it would discourage undocumented families and mixed-status families from participating.

President Donald Trump has made measures against undocumented immigrants entering and staying in the United States one of his major political planks.

In a Monday memo, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross wrote: “I find that the need for accurate citizenship data and the limited burden that the reinstatement of the citizenship question would impose outweigh fears about a potentially lower response rate. Importantly, the Department’s review found that limited empirical evidence exists about whether adding a citizenship question would decrease response rates materially.”

About six weeks ago, Ferguson and 18 other attorneys general sent a letter to Ross to oppose the addition of the citizenship question. The announcement has been expected since late last year.

That letter said the U.S. Census Bureau has long recognized the difficulty of counting immigrant and non-citizen communities.

“Recent pretests by the Census Bureau have revealed that immigrant respondents increasingly expressed concerns about confidentiality and data sharing, especially when asked questions about citizenship,” the Feb. 12 letter said.

The letter noted that four previous Census Bureau directors appointed by both Republicans and Democrats have contended that the citizenship question  — last asked in 2000 — have decreased participation in the census.

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Grace Meng, D-New York, announced Tuesday that she plans to introduce a bill that would remove that question for the Census — a proposal likely to run into trouble with the Republicans in charge of both the U.S. House and Senate.

1 Comment

  1. I believe Census form does not need information whether non-citizen is legal or illegal resident. Why such a fuss?

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