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2020 Census: History of the Citizenship Question

7/29/19 Citizenship Question Fight Over, Concerns Continue for 2020 Census

Earlier this month, President Trump acknowledged that the 2020 Census questionnaire would not include the citizenship question and instructed the Census Bureau instead to compile citizenship information from other government records. Following the announcement, the President signed an executive order to require agencies that collect and have access to citizenship data to provide such data to the Department of Commerce within the confines of the law. The federal judge overseeing the New York lawsuit formally blocked the citizenship question from being on the census form, and stated he would retain jurisdiction to ensure the question is not inserted later.

7/3/19 UPDATE: Citizenship Question Back Up in the Air – What Now?

The last week since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the controversial citizenship question cannot be added to the 2020 census questionnaire has been a wild roller coaster ride for anyone trying to follow what’s been happening. First, both the Commerce Secretary and the Department of Justice defending his actions conceded in writing that the question would not be added and that the printing of the forms had begun on July 1 – something the government had been telling the trial and appellate courts, including the Supreme Court, repeatedly: that everything had to be resolved by no later than June 30. The, next day, however, the President tweeted otherwise, prompting immediate actions in the ongoing lawsuits challenging the question in federal district courts in both Maryland and New York. Next, the entire team of career DOJ attorneys who had been representing the government asked to be replaced, but a judge denied the request and demanded more information about why (as the law requires). While the various legal contortions and political machinations continue, nonprofits need to keep focused on doing the work now of helping their communities prepare for a fair, accurate, and complete count next year.

Voices from the Field: What the US Supreme Court’s Decision Means for Nonprofits – Tim Delaney, National Council of Nonprofits’ CEO, for Nonprofit Quarterly, June 28, 2019.

7/3/19 UPDATE: Justice Department Says Controversial Citizenship Question will Not be on the Census Form

The Justice Department has announced that the 2020 Census questionnaire will be printed without the controversial citizenship question. The news was broken late yesterday  by The Hill and has been confirmed by the New York Times and Washington Post.

4/1/19 UPDATE: National Council of Nonprofits Amicus Brief

The National Council of Nonprofits has written an amicus brief on consideration of including the citizenship question in the 2020 Census. You can read the brief here.

5/29/18 UPDATE: Litigation Over the 2020 Census

Last week, Alabama and a U.S. Representative from Alabama sued federal officials regarding the 2020 Census. Their lawsuit was the fifth (so far) alleging that the issue of citizenship will produce a flawed count. But while the first four lawsuits contend that the addition of a divisive and untested citizenship question will undercount people, the Alabama lawsuit claims that the 2020 Census will overcount people by including undocumented immigrants, alleging it will cause the state to lose a congressional seat.

Also last week, the Phoenix City Council voted to file a lawsuit challenging the U.S. Census Bureau’s plan to include a question about citizenship status in the 2020 Census. It is unknown at this time whether Phoenix will file its own lawsuit, or join existing litigation, as happened this month when five California cities and the state’s largest county joined the State of California’s lawsuit challenging the citizenship question

Questioning the Census Citizenship Question

Current Status From the National Council of Nonprofits:

The omnibus spending bill provides a $1.34 billion increase for the Census Bureau to help prepare for the 2020 count. This was double the President’s budget, which advocates cautioned would only keep the Bureau on “life support.” A bipartisan group of 161 mayors had called on the Administration to provide “adequate funding, qualified Census Bureau leadership, and a full rejection of untested questions that threatens to undermine census preparations and accuracy.”

On March 26, 2018, the U.S. Commerce Department announced that a question on citizenship status will be reinstated to the 2020 decennial census questionnaire. The stated reason for adding the controversial question is to help enforce the Voting Rights Act (VRA) according to a news release and memorandum supporting the decision. The California Attorney General announced on March 27, 2018 that he filed a lawsuit challenging the inclusion of the citizenship question as an “unconstitutional attempt to disrupt an accurate Census count.”

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform scheduled a hearing on May 8, 2018 to examine the Census Bureau’s progress during the 2018 end-to-end test and examine ongoing preparations for the 2020 decennial census. The National Council of Nonprofits submitted comments to “express the significant concerns … that aspects of the 2020 Census are so amiss that they pose a serious risk of not getting it right and hurting our country.