CENSUS CITIZENSHIP QUESTION REVIEW PROCEEDS AT SUPREME COURT

The United States Constitution requires that a US Census count be conducted every decade to determine the distribution of Congressional seats among states and to make planning and funding decisions around public services for communities. Census data helps policymakers distribute almost $900 billion in federal money every year through government programs.

Historical undercounting has led to funding losses and diminished power in communities - including in those in which undocumented people reside. Of the half of the country’s immigrants who are not citizens, half of that group is undocumented.

In light of a proposed citizenship question on the 2020 Census, The Census Bureau itself forecasts undercounting due to diminished self-responses by Latinx households and households with noncitizens. Community members’ feeling intimidated by the potential inclusion of the citizenship question could suppress their participation and exacerbate existing disenfranchisement of marginalized people - some of whom have been able to obtain or already have citizenship status and may live in mixed-status family households.  In this way, the impact of this policy decision extends across inequities in communities. Some of the issues at stake include migrant and economic justice as well as civic participation.

Starting on April 23rd the US Supreme Court began reviewing oral arguments on the constitutionality of including the citizenship question. The Court plans to make a final decision by June. In the meantime, the Census Bureau continues to seek data on noncitizens’ immigration statuses from the Department of Homeland Security.

Amidst multiple ongoing legal challenges to the citizenship question, three federal judges have ruled against the inclusion of the question on various grounds. In January, the first federal judge to rule on the question blocked the administration from including the question on the 2020 Census because the Commerce Secretary - under the Administrative Procedures Act - is obligated to collect data through administrative records instead of through direct survey inquiries like the Census questionnaire. The judge found that hundreds of thousands - if not millions - would go uncounted should the citizenship question be included on the Census: translating ‘into a loss of political power and funds, among other harms....’

A second federal judge ruled last month that ‘the inclusion of the citizenship question on the 2020 Census threatens the very foundation of our democratic system.’ Most recently, a third federal judge said that there is no actual need for racial and language minorities to be protected against discrimination - as stated by the administration in justifying its proposal - and that this question would undermine rights of people residing in significantly Latino and immigrant communities.