Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced a re-introduction of the citizenship question in a post on his department's website yesterday. The department said the citizenship information would help the Justice Department enforce the Voting Rights Act, which protects minority voting rights and helps prevent the unlawful dilution of the vote on the basis of race. That question is now included on the American Community Survey, which offers a more detailed read on the state of the US population and replaced a different long-form questionnaire in the 2010 census. He said this would allow the government to get a large amount of self-reported data but also determine if non-citizens misreported themselves as citizens - which happened around 30 percent of the time on a prior federal survey.
It is used to determine the allocation to states of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and to distribute billions of dollars in federal funds to local communities.
Michael Strain, director of economic policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, said the move risked introducing "significant inaccuracy" into the census count.
"Secretary Ross determined that obtaining complete and accurate information to meet this legitimate government goal outweighed the limited potential adverse impacts", the department said in its announcement. The statement did not say which states would join the lawsuit and when it would be filed. Researchers said respondents had specific fears about sharing confidential information with researchers, and attributed it to moves from the Trump administration to target immigrants and people of color such as the Muslim travel ban, the dismantling of DACA, and the empowerment of ICE agents.
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The population count taken every 10 years is more than an academic exercise. He called the move by Ross an attempt to suppress the count in states such as MA that have large immigrant populations.
"I personally spoke with Secretary Ross about this issue, and I am very disappointed that he appears to be disregarding the views of Republican and Democratic experts - including six former census directors - and is instead rushing ahead with a politically-motivated decision that will jeopardize the full, fair, and accurate count our Constitution demands", he said in a statement Tuesday.
California's Attorney General has already announced that they're suing over the question. We have no idea how the untested insertion of a citizenship question will affect public cooperation. A group of 19 Democratic attorneys-general told Mr Ross this month that including the question would be unconstitutional. Citizenship questions have also been included on prior decennial censuses.
Mr. Trump had proposed limiting spending on the Census Bureau, which normally would be ramping up now in preparation for 2020. "Today, surveys of sample populations, such as the Current Population Survey and the ACS, continue to ask a question on citizenship".