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Legislation Tries to Block Census from Adding Citizenship Question as DOJ Requested

A Census form held by a USPS carrier in 2010

WASHINGTON -- D.C.'s delegate to Congress said Monday that she'll introduced legislation in an effort to block the Census Bureau from asking questions about citizenship, nationality or immigration status in the 2020 survey.

Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) said she was spurred to take legislative action after a Dec. 12 letter from a Justice Department official asked Acting Census Bureau Director Ron Jarmin to reinstate a citizenship question on the survey.

In the letter, Justice Management Division General Counsel Arthur E. Gary called the data provided by the question, which used to be on the long-form Census questionnaire until 2000, "critical to the Department’s enforcement of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and its important protections against racial discrimination in voting."

"To fully enforce those requirements, the Department needs a reliable calculation of the citizen voting-age population in localities where voting rights violations are alleged or suspected," Gary wrote.

Instead of the long-form Census questionnaire going to about one in six households, the 2010 Census sent the American Community Survey, which included a citizenship question, to about one in 38 households.

"The Department formally requests that the Census Bureau reinstate into the 2020 Census a question regarding citizenship. We also request that the Census Bureau release this new data regarding citizenship at the same time as it releases the other redistricting data, by April 1 following the 2020 Census," Gary wrote. "At the same time, the Department requests that the Bureau also maintain the citizenship question on the ACS."

Norton argued Monday that "if the point of the census is to get an accurate count, the least effective way to do it in the anti-immigrant atmosphere engineered by the president is to tuck it into the Census questionnaire."

“Professionals at the Census Bureau know how to get an answer to this legitimate inquiry and we should follow them, not step on their professional efforts," she added. "My bill seeks to ensure that no respondent to the all-important Census feels intimidated.”

In July, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) introduced legislation, which has stalled in the Oversight Committee, that would "require that any questionnaire used in determining the decennial Census of population shall contain an option for respondents to indicate citizenship status or lawful presence in the United States."

“For the last 15 years, I have heard the same figure advanced by Amnesty proponents regarding the number of illegal aliens in the country. I do not believe that the static number they offer is accurate as it seems more like a well-established talking point. In fact, I believe the number of illegal aliens in the country is far higher than many suppose," King explained in a statement at the time. "The Census should be better equipped to measure this number so that policy makers can take appropriate actions to reduce the deleterious impact illegal immigration has on our nation.”