U.S. to add citizenship question in 2020 Census: Commerce Dept

US


(Reuters) – A question about citizenship status will be reinstated on the 2020 Census to help enforce the Voting Rights Act, federal officials said on Monday, amid concerns that the change will compromise the accuracy of the population count.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross testifies to the House Appropriations Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Subcommittee on the Commerce Department’s FY2019 budget request on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 20, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross decided to add the question to the count after a Department of Justice request that it says was based on the desire for “more effective enforcement” of the voting law, the U.S. Department of Commerce said in a statement.

“Secretary Ross determined that obtaining complete and accurate information to meet this legitimate government purpose outweighed the limited potential adverse impacts,” it said.

The census, which is mandated under the U.S. Constitution and takes place every 10 years, counts every resident in the United States. It is used to determine the allocation by states of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and to distribute billions of dollars in federal funds to local communities.

Opponents of a Census question about citizenship status say it could further discourage immigrants from participating in the count, especially when they are already fearful of how information could be used against them.

“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,” Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights said in a statement.

Test surveys showed in late 2017 that some immigrants were afraid to provide information to U.S. Census workers because of fears about being deported.

Immigrants and those who live with immigrants are troubled by confidentiality and data-sharing aspects of the count, Mikelyn Meyers, a researcher at the Census Bureau’s Center for Survey Measurement, told a meeting of the bureau’s National Advisory Committee in November.

Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Eric Meijer and Paul Tait



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