Proposed Citizenship Question on 2020 Census: Is it Legal?
The government wants to add a new question to the census regarding citizenship. This move is highly controversial and hotly contested across the country. It has even been brought to the courts where a third federal judge ruled against the addition of the question. Whether or not the question will make it onto the 2020 census remains to be seen.
Adding Citizenship Questions to the Census
According to the Trump Administration, the question is necessary in order to learn important data about immigrants living in the country. They claim that the citizenship question has historically been a part of the U.S. census. Actually, the question of citizenship has not been included in the census for a half-century. The courts have now stated that they believe the decision to add the question was arbitrary and capricious. The question is not necessary for the reasons that were stated in the request.
Many lawyers have weighed in on the question, including those at the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. They recently published an article concluding that “There is no valid justification for the citizenship question.”
The argument against the citizenship question stems from the fact that it would cause a “dramatic and disproportionate undercount of immigrant communities” when those individuals opted not to participate fully or truthfully in the census out of fear of reprisal. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court has set a precedent that requires census decisions to bear a “reasonable relationship to the accomplishment of an actual enumeration of the U.S. population.”
Recent Legal Rulings
The decision to put a citizenship question on the 2020 census has been put before several judges thus far. All ruled that the question should not be included on the census. The most recent ruling came from U.S. District Judge George Hazel. USA Today reports that Hazel issued a 119 page decision that supported rulings by federal judges in California and New York. In his ruling Judge Hazel stated that “The Census Bureau repeatedly, consistently and unanimously recommended against adding a citizenship question to the 2020 decennial census.”
The judge’s decision states that U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had “illegally manufactured” a reason to add the question to the census using a misleading memo to support his request. Ross “failed to disclose the true basis for his decision” when he testified before Congress. The court found that there was “overwhelming evidence” to support the other courts’ findings that the addition of the question would cause a decline in participation in the census by non-citizen and Hispanic households.
The decision to add the question of citizenship to the U.S. census in 2020 is still being litigated. If it is added to the census, it may impact the results of the census and dramatically decrease participation in some neighborhoods and parts of the country. The question needs to be resolved quickly because the 2020 census forms need to be printed to prepare for the census next year.
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