Commerce Dept. to include citizenship question on U.S. census

Trump administration to reinstate census question about citizenship

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It helps communities determine where to build schools, hospitals, grocery stores and more.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced his decision Monday in an eight-page memo.

"The citizenship data provided" to the Justice Department as it reviews remapping for violations of voting rights "will be more accurate with the question than without it, which is of greater importance than any adverse effect that may result from people violating their legal duty to respond" to the census, Ross wrote. But, he concluded, "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".

NY state's attorney general said on Tuesday he will lead a multistate lawsuit to try to stop the federal government from asking people whether they are citizens in the 2020 Census, arguing the move will discourage immigrants from participating.

"Including a citizenship question on the 2020 census is not just a bad idea - it is illegal", Becerra said in a tweet.

Vanita Gupta, the president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, on March 26 said: "This untimely, unnecessary, and untested citizenship question will disrupt planning at a critical point, undermine years of painstaking preparation, and increase costs significantly, putting a successful, accurate count at risk". Former Attorney General Eric Holder, who now leads the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, said the organization will also sue to stop it.

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The deadline to determine if the USA citizenship question will actually be added to the 2020 census is March 31, the day that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross will have to determine if the question will be added. A group of 19 Democratic attorneys-general told Mr Ross this month that including the question would be unconstitutional. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, who co-chairs the House Census Caucus, has introduced a bill that would to block the Commerce Secretary from implementing changes to the decennial census that have not been researched or tested at least three years before census day.

Several Republican senators voiced support for including the question, having previously sent a letter to the Department of Commerce urging the question be reinstated. Citizenship questions have also been included on prior decennial censuses.

Citizenship questions have appeared on the census in the past and are included on more frequent population surveys that are administered by the Census Bureau.

The US Department of Commerce, which oversees the Census Bureau, said late on Monday it would bring back the citizenship question, in defiance of warnings that doing so would deter millions of people from participating in the count.

He added: "For the approximately 70 per cent of non-citizens who already answer this question accurately on the ACS [American community survey], the question is no additional imposition since census responses by law may only be used anonymously and for statistical purposes". The citizenship data help agencies and policymakers evaluate immigration policy and understand how different immigrant groups are assimilated. In a statement, Pelosi said a citizenship question would terrify already vulnerable people and "cause traditionally undercounted communities to be even further underrepresented, financially excluded and left behind".

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