Commentary

Call goes out for comments on Census citizenship question

Be sure to check out a great essay that appeared in The Nation recently by former Obama administration official Vanita Gupta, who now leads the Leadership Conference Education Fund. In “Say No to a Citizenship Question on the 2020 Census,” Gupta explains why all Americans should be commenting by next Tuesday’s deadline on the Trump administration’s proposed citizenship question on the 2020 U.S. Census.

“The Commerce Department is soliciting public comments on the 2020 Census to help evaluate the quality of information the questionnaire will collect. That means all of us can speak directly to the Trump administration about the critical need for a fair and accurate census. Here’s why that is so important.

The United States Constitution requires a count of every person in the country every 10 years. This is an enormously important undertaking. At stake in 2020 is fair political representation at every level of government and the distribution of more than $800 billion a year in federal funds that state and local leaders use to provide public goods like health care, education, housing, and economic development.

There’s only one chance in a decade to get the Census right. And because so much rides on an accurate count, protecting the integrity of the Census has traditionally been a nonpartisan commitment. Not anymore. The Census has become the latest front in the Trump administration’s ongoing war on justice, fairness, and the rule of law in America.

This spring, after the Census Bureau spent nearly a decade carefully preparing and testing questions to be included on the 2020 questionnaire, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross caved to political pressure from Jeff Sessions’s Department of Justice. Overriding the Census Bureau’s nonpartisan experts, Ross directed the bureau to include a question on citizenship status in the Census form, without any time to test its wording or potential impact on people’s willingness to complete the questionnaire.”

Gupta goes onto explain that documents recently released as part of lawsuit show that the citizenship question is the result, not surprisingly, of internal Trump administration pressures from anti-immigrant hardliners.

As she notes further, if the question is included, it’s sure to depress Census participation and response rates and thereby lead to a serious undercount that will hurt scores of communities. Fortunately, it’s not too late to sop the question. Here’s Gupta’s conclusion:

“Here’s where we, the people, come in: by flooding the Commerce Department with our comments. Do you want to preserve the integrity of the count? Make your voice heard. Do you want to ensure your neighborhood schools, hospitals, and parks are fully funded? Make your voice heard. Are you tired of the administration scapegoating immigrants and refugees? Make your voice heard. The Commerce Department’s comment period runs until August 7, and you can act now by going here.

Let us all defend the integrity of the 2020 Census and the Constitution. Lend your voice, so no one gets left behind.”

5 Comments


  1. Vivian Sullivan

    July 31, 2018 at 9:59 am

    I agree with the census question of citizenship. Ross is correct.

  2. Robert Guessford

    July 31, 2018 at 10:03 am

    Yes there should be a citizenship question. I agree with the question.

  3. Cheryl Hicks

    August 1, 2018 at 10:11 am

    I disagree with the census question of citizenship not the purpose of the census

  4. RICHARD JORDAN

    August 1, 2018 at 1:44 pm

    As a former census worker i can promise that the proposed citizenship question would lead to undercounting of our residents. It is clearly a deterrent to full participation in our civic process, and it works against the purpose and integrity of the census. Drop the question!

  5. Elaine Tobin

    August 3, 2018 at 2:17 pm

    The population that must be served in our country includes permanent residents and other non-citizens. Public health needs are one of many instances where failure to include people who live among us but are not citizens endangers those of us who are!

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