Citizenship question on 2020 census a 'surveillance system,' critics say

Citizenship question on 2020 census a 'surveillance system,' critics say

Yahoo News photo illustration; photos: Shutterstock/census.gov

“This question also could set off a lot of insecurities and distrust that certain populations have currently of the U.S. government,” Jennifer Van Hook, a sociology and demography professor at Pennsylvania State University, told Yahoo News. “Because it sounds like somebody’s looking into their citizenship, wondering if they belong in the United States, raising fears that the information they provide to the census could then be passed along to law enforcement agencies or ICE, and then be used to either target them or people that they know in their community.”‘ data-reactid=”23″>“This question also could set off a lot of insecurities and distrust that certain populations have currently of the U.S. government,” Jennifer Van Hook, a sociology and demography professor at Pennsylvania State University, told Yahoo News. “Because it sounds like somebody’s looking into their citizenship, wondering if they belong in the United States, raising fears that the information they provide to the census could then be passed along to law enforcement agencies or ICE, and then be used to either target them or people that they know in their community.”

In January, about five months ahead of this summer’s printing deadline, Manhattan District Judge Jesse Furman ordered the Department of Commerce to remove the citizenship question from the 2020 census, adding that it was “unlawful for a multitude of independent reasons.” But when the Trump administration filed an appeal and requested that the Supreme Court weigh in on a dispute about evidence, the high court stepped in, bypassing what would likely have been a lengthy federal appeals court process.‘ data-reactid=”25″>In January, about five months ahead of this summer’s printing deadline, Manhattan District Judge Jesse Furman ordered the Department of Commerce to remove the citizenship question from the 2020 census, adding that it was “unlawful for a multitude of independent reasons.” But when the Trump administration filed an appeal and requested that the Supreme Court weigh in on a dispute about evidence, the high court stepped in, bypassing what would likely have been a lengthy federal appeals court process.

“The decennial census is not designed to collect information about the composition of the population. The chief focus is to get a head count of the population,” Van Hook said. “We have other surveys to collect information about the characteristics of the population, including citizenship status.”‘ data-reactid=”27″>“The decennial census is not designed to collect information about the composition of the population. The chief focus is to get a head count of the population,” Van Hook said. “We have other surveys to collect information about the characteristics of the population, including citizenship status.”

For over 200 years, the decennial head count of every person living in the U.S. — citizens and noncitizens — has helped states determine how funds, now hundreds of billions of dollars, are allocated according to population size. The 2020 census, which begins on April 1 of next year and ends that summer, before congressional reapportionment and redistricting, also helps determine the allocation of House of Representatives seats and Electoral College votes.‘ data-reactid=”29″>For over 200 years, the decennial head count of every person living in the U.S. — citizens and noncitizens — has helped states determine how funds, now hundreds of billions of dollars, are allocated according to population size. The 2020 census, which begins on April 1 of next year and ends that summer, before congressional reapportionment and redistricting, also helps determine the allocation of House of Representatives seats and Electoral College votes.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross speaking on July 16, 2018. (Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

Former Census Bureau Director John Thompson, who reviewed the district court ruling against the Department of Commerce, told Yahoo News that he was never made aware that Ross had talked about adding the citizenship question. ‘ data-reactid=”42″>Former Census Bureau Director John Thompson, who reviewed the district court ruling against the Department of Commerce, told Yahoo News that he was never made aware that Ross had talked about adding the citizenship question.

“The Census Bureau has done its own research that shows that the citizenship question will reduce self-response among the noncitizen population,” Thompson said.‘ data-reactid=”44″>“The Census Bureau has done its own research that shows that the citizenship question will reduce self-response among the noncitizen population,” Thompson said.

“After they’ve made a specific number of visits, if you can’t find anyone that could respond for the household directly, they will try to find a knowledgeable surrogate,” said Thompson. “In some cases, it would be neighbors. In some cases, it would be maybe an apartment building supervisor or some other source. The guideline is to try to find a knowledgeable source.”‘ data-reactid=”48″>“After they’ve made a specific number of visits, if you can’t find anyone that could respond for the household directly, they will try to find a knowledgeable surrogate,” said Thompson. “In some cases, it would be neighbors. In some cases, it would be maybe an apartment building supervisor or some other source. The guideline is to try to find a knowledgeable source.”

Former Census Bureau Director John Thompson (Photo: U.S. Census/handout photo)

“My neighbors don’t know my age,” Thompson said. “They can only guess at my race by my physical appearance. We’ve never talked about that. And they don’t know if I’m a citizen or not a citizen.”‘ data-reactid=”61″>“My neighbors don’t know my age,” Thompson said. “They can only guess at my race by my physical appearance. We’ve never talked about that. And they don’t know if I’m a citizen or not a citizen.”

A smaller, more detailed questionnaire, the American Community Survey takes on average 40 minutes to complete, Thompson said, adding that it has “worked fine to support voting rights under multiple administrations, both Democrat and Republican.”‘ data-reactid=”63″>A smaller, more detailed questionnaire, the American Community Survey takes on average 40 minutes to complete, Thompson said, adding that it has “worked fine to support voting rights under multiple administrations, both Democrat and Republican.”

“We have good data that has been used for the last decade or more very successfully [through] the American Community Survey,” Prewitt added. ‘ data-reactid=”65″>“We have good data that has been used for the last decade or more very successfully [through] the American Community Survey,” Prewitt added.

“If it is on the form, combining it with some other data that we have about citizenship drawn from administrating records, it allows you to construct a register of everyone who is a citizen and noncitizen in the country,” he said. ‘ data-reactid=”67″>“If it is on the form, combining it with some other data that we have about citizenship drawn from administrating records, it allows you to construct a register of everyone who is a citizen and noncitizen in the country,” he said.

“If you are an immigrant, an undocumented immigrant, or if you’re a U.S. citizen who is married to an immigrant or is part of a mixed-status family, you’re going to think twice before answering that question on your census form because the government will have that information,” said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, an advocacy organization in Washington, D.C.‘ data-reactid=”69″>“If you are an immigrant, an undocumented immigrant, or if you’re a U.S. citizen who is married to an immigrant or is part of a mixed-status family, you’re going to think twice before answering that question on your census form because the government will have that information,” said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, an advocacy organization in Washington, D.C.

“It’s the states in the Southeast and the Midwest, which have seen fast growth in the immigrant population, that really depend on a full and fair census count,” said Noorani. “Federal funding for highways and schools are determined in large part by the census, so if you’re a rural suburban school district in the middle of the country who is benefiting from a growing immigrant population, you want every one of those kids and families counted.”‘ data-reactid=”71″>“It’s the states in the Southeast and the Midwest, which have seen fast growth in the immigrant population, that really depend on a full and fair census count,” said Noorani. “Federal funding for highways and schools are determined in large part by the census, so if you’re a rural suburban school district in the middle of the country who is benefiting from a growing immigrant population, you want every one of those kids and families counted.”

Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum. (Photo: Victor Boyko/Getty Images for Aurora Humanitarian Initiative)

“All communities would be hurt,” said Beth Lynk, director of the Census Counts Campaign at the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “Having an unfair count and an inaccurate count of the census will negatively impact the ability of the federal government to distribute federal funding for key programs and will disproportionately impact key communities that are traditionally harder to count, like communities of color, immigrant communities, low-income communities, indigenous communities, communities that have young children and more.”‘ data-reactid=”84″>“All communities would be hurt,” said Beth Lynk, director of the Census Counts Campaign at the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “Having an unfair count and an inaccurate count of the census will negatively impact the ability of the federal government to distribute federal funding for key programs and will disproportionately impact key communities that are traditionally harder to count, like communities of color, immigrant communities, low-income communities, indigenous communities, communities that have young children and more.”

Still, Camarota said he understands the controversy that the proposed inclusion of the citizenship question is causing. “Everyone has a suspicion here,” he said.‘ data-reactid=”86″>Still, Camarota said he understands the controversy that the proposed inclusion of the citizenship question is causing. “Everyone has a suspicion here,” he said.

As for Republican concerns, Camarota said the citizenship question could show that a “significant number of people who aren’t supposed to vote and register are doing so” and could “tell you exactly what the distribution of seats in the House of Representatives or in the state legislature in California would have been had you not counted all those noncitizens.”‘ data-reactid=”88″>As for Republican concerns, Camarota said the citizenship question could show that a “significant number of people who aren’t supposed to vote and register are doing so” and could “tell you exactly what the distribution of seats in the House of Representatives or in the state legislature in California would have been had you not counted all those noncitizens.”

“If you look at the American Community Survey, with the rise of Trump, we didn’t see a big drop-off [in participation]. It’s true that people are less willing over time to answer that question, but they’re also less willing to tell us whether they’re married, how much money they make.”‘ data-reactid=”90″>“If you look at the American Community Survey, with the rise of Trump, we didn’t see a big drop-off [in participation]. It’s true that people are less willing over time to answer that question, but they’re also less willing to tell us whether they’re married, how much money they make.”

“We are very, very fearful that there would be an undercount that would render our community more invisible if the citizenship question is allowed to stay on,” John C. Yang, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice, told Yahoo News. “There is very heightened fear in our community already about the federal government and about privacy, and the citizenship question simply exacerbates it.”‘ data-reactid=”92″>“We are very, very fearful that there would be an undercount that would render our community more invisible if the citizenship question is allowed to stay on,” John C. Yang, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice, told Yahoo News. “There is very heightened fear in our community already about the federal government and about privacy, and the citizenship question simply exacerbates it.”

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