1950 Census Form, U.S. Census Bureau
In January, U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman of New York ordered a stop on the administration’s plan to use the citizenship question in the 2020 Census. The judge cited several reasons why the question is unconstitutional, arguing that it violates the Administrative Procedure Act, which prevents federal agencies from using their powers in such a way that is “arbitrary and capricious.”
The lawsuit also claims that inclusion of the question would violate the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. The Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment states that an individual has a right to a grand jury, due process of law, and protection from self-incrimination. If an individual were to fill out the 2020 Census citizenship question, it would reveal their status as a documented or undocumented immigrant—and thus would be self- incriminating. Judge Furman argues that the intention to include the question is ultimately “motivated by discrimination against immigrant communities of color.”
Following the blocking of the question, the Trump administration filed an appeal with the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, requesting a review of Judge Furman’s ruling. The Supreme Court has agreed to a hearing this April and will make a decision regarding the constitutionality of the question in June.
The last time this type of question was asked of all respondents was in 1950. In 1990 and in 2000, only a sample of people were asked if they were a citizen or naturalized. Under today’s political climate, the re-introduction of a citizenship question into the 2020 census will hinder the collection of accurate race, ethnic, and population data.
The U.S. Constitution mandates that congressional seating and taxes were to be distributed based on a state’s population. Since the first census in 1790, a census to determine representation and resource distribution has been conducted every 10 years. The census is central to implementing and evaluating many civil rights laws and policies, including equal opportunity and access across all economic and social sectors of society.
Census data will also influence the allocation of more than $800 billion in federal government resources to states, localities, and families each year for services like health care, education, housing, transportation, and rural access to broadband. The data will also help non-profit organizations like CIANA identify current and future needs for the communities they serve.
In an analysis from 2017, Center for Survey Measurements (CSM) field representatives and researchers concluded that many people (either immigrants or living with immigrants) were hesitant to answer in fear that the confidentiality of their information would be violated and made clear their distrust in the current government.
"The possibility that the Census could give my information to internal security and immigration could come and arrest me for not having documents terrifies me,” said one respondent.
CSM concluded that this prominent fear among immigrant households would most likely be a barrier in the 2020 census should the citizenship question be included.
What Can I Do?
As one might expect, counting every person residing in the United States is an immensely difficult task. Obtaining an accurate count involves plenty of careful planning, continual updating of address information, and the training of a large temporary workforce to gather and process data. The Census Bureau reports that communities of color, urban and rural low-income households, young children, immigrants, and individuals with limited English proficiency have been especially challenging to count accurately.
Based on 2010 mail return rates of the last census, many parts of Astoria are considered difficult to count with a mail return rate of roughly 65-70% in most areas for the last census. Disadvantaged communities like these are the ones who will lose out if an inclusive, accurate count is not conducted.
2010 Mail Return Rates for Astoria Zip Codes: 11101, 11102, 11103, 11104, 11105, 11106, CUNY Mapping Service at the Center for Urban Justice
We urge our allies to get involved with their local Complete Count Committees and Census-partnered organizations to ensure an accurate count in 2020. Currently, New York Counts 2020, a broad-based, statewide coalition of different organizations, including CIANA, is leading the efforts to ensure that New Yorkers across the state are fully counted. We encourage everyone to join us to obtain an accurate count.