Adding a citizenship question to census


FILE – This March 23, 2018, file photo shows an envelope containing a 2018 census letter mailed to a U.S. resident as part of the nation’s only test run of the 2020 Census. The Supreme Court will decide whether the 2020 census can include a question about citizenship that could affect the allocation of seats […]

The decision of whether or not to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census is going all the way to the Supreme Court.

The Southern District of New York has already ruled in favor of the New York Immigration Coalition- who sued the Department of Commerce and other plaintiffs over the issue- but the Trump administration appealed.

The census has existed since 1790 and has always been a population count, not a citizen count. It did ask a version of a citizenship question in the past, but then stopped doing that in 1950. 

Betsy Plum, vice president of police at the New York Immigration Coalition, said adding it back in during this macro-environment without any testing, and with proven intent to hurt immigrant communities is why it is so different than 70 years ago and problematic.

“We feel that this is absolutely motivated to depress immigrant counts and to make it so immigrants don’t feel comfortable completing the census,” Plum said.

She said places with more immigration communities could have lower counts in the census and would, therefore, get fewer resources. Some of these resources could include healthcare funding, school funding, infrastructure and various resources for local companies.

New York receives $53 billion from the money allocated from the census. This means for every one person not counted, the state would lose $3,000. 

This would not only affect undocumented immigrants- anyone with a green card, temporary protective status, DACA or a Visa is not a citizen and would have to write that on the census.

A lot of immigrants may also live in mixed status families- meaning some members are citizens and some are not. Plum said if the whole family decides not to do the census because of one non-citizen you’re then losing even more people in the count.

She also said by weaponizing the census and rigging it against immigrant communities, you hurt more than just immigrants, you hurt everyone. 

For more information about the New York State census, visit the New York State Library website.

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