New Citizenship Question on 2020 Census

October 17, 2018

Philadelphia immigration lawyers explain the new 2020 census question about citizenship.Every ten years the U.S. Census Bureau gathers information from individuals living in the United States. Since 1950, there has not been a census question about the citizenship status of residents. This is about to change in the next census, which will take place in 2020.

One proposed change to the 2020 Census Questionnaire is the inclusion of the question “Is this person a citizen of the United States?” There are five possible responses:

  • Yes, born in the United States
  • Yes, born in Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, or Northern Marianas
  • Yes, born abroad of U.S. citizen parent or parents
  • Yes, U.S. citizen by naturalization
  • No, not a U.S. citizen

The respondent will not have to indicate whether the noncitizen has proper documentation. For many immigrants, identifying themselves as a “non-citizen” is something they try to avoid.

While it remains illegal for the Census Bureau to share a person’s census responses with either law enforcement or immigration authorities, there remains a real fear among immigrants that this information can be used against them.

Why Ask About Citizenship?

Many immigrants are wary of the government’s intention in seeking information about a person’s citizenship. According to the Justice Department, which has requested that this question be included on the next census questionnaire, information about citizenship is needed to help enforce provisions under the federal Voting Rights Act.

The federal Voting Rights Act provides protections to minority voters, including those who do not speak English as their first language. Currently, the Justice Department relies solely on information from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, which covers a mere 2.6 percent of the American population. In order to properly enforce the Voting Rights Act, the Justice Department is seeking greater “scope, detail and certainty” when it comes to minority representation.

What Happens if I Leave the Citizenship Question Blank?

The Trump Administration has recognized the hesitancy of some immigrants in answering this question, and has warned that if the question remains blank, other government records will be used to fill in the missing response. By using the statistical technique of “imputation,” the Census Bureau can fill in missing data by referring to information about neighboring households.

Through the use of imputation, the last census added over one million people to household population numbers. Other government records that could be used to fill in missing information are Social Security records and Internal Revenue Service files.

Opposition to the Citizenship Question

The California Attorney General filed a lawsuit against the Census Bureau, with respect to the inclusion of the citizenship question. California is challenging the new question, on the basis that it will result in many immigrants not responding at all to the Census Questionnaire. This is directly related to the fear of many immigrants that the provided information will be shared with immigration agencies.

Critics warn that inaccurate census numbers can have a detrimental effect on both the number of congressional seats and the amount of federal funding that a state receives.

Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers at the Law Offices of MC Law Group, LLC Help with Immigration Matters

At the Law Offices of MC Law Group, LLC our experienced Philadelphia immigration lawyers handle all types of immigration matters including those involving deportation, naturalization, visa approvals, green cards, asylum and other citizenship issues. To schedule a free confidential initial consultation call us at 215-496-0690 or contact us online. From our offices in Philadelphia, we assist clients in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and nationwide.