The Census Bureau has proposed adding a question to the 2020 Census asking every American household to record which members of their family are U.S. citizens. This question could intimidate ethnic and immigrant populations from participating in the census, leading to inaccurate and undercounted results. The purpose of the Census is to count everyone, regardless of citizenship status, and accurate data is crucial. This data is used to determine congressional apportionment for the next decade, and is also the basis for federal funding allocations to Utah for programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, and the National School Lunch Program.
The last time the Census asked a question directly regarding citizenship was in the 1950s. The question was then removed, as there were many indicators that reports were inaccurate. The government determined there are better means to collect data about citizenship status through the American Community Survey, which is still used to gather information annually.
A citizenship question on the Census is not only unnecessary, but threatens the accuracy of the Census results and should be removed.
Join us by writing a formal public comment opposing a citizenship question on the 2020 Census. The comment period began June 8th and ends August 7th, at 11:59pm EST.
Key Talking Points
- Utah depends on accurate census data for federal funding for important programs
- This year, Utah Legislature passed a concurrent resolution asking Congress to ensure census counts to be accurate and complete (H.C.R. 12)
- Inaccurate census data will affect congressional districts in Utah
- According to the American Immigration Council, nearly 40% of immigrants (foreign-born individuals) in Utah are undocumented and will go uncounted if they feel too intimidated to participate
- 6% of children in Utah live with parents who are undocumented and could possibly go uncounted if their parents do not participate
- The Census Bureau cannot legally share responses but many immigrants are still fearful their information will be given to ICE, therefore might not respond or answer inaccurately
- Citizenship data is already collected through the American Community Survey; a citizenship question on the Census is unnecessary and not the most accurate way to collect this data
Comments can be submitted online on the Federal Register website. Find our formal comment below.
Formal comment from Alliance for a Better Utah, submitted on July 3, 2018:
Alliance for a Better Utah believes the 2020 Census should not include a question about the citizenship status of household members. Not only is this information unnecessary to the proper function of the Census, but could seriously hinder the accuracy of its results. Further, a citizenship question will increase the cost of the Census.
Utahns both depend on and benefit from an accurate Census count, and all Utahns will be harmed by an undercounted population. Utah relies heavily on accurate population data for representation decisions for federal, state, and local governments. Census data is also the basis upon which federal funding is allocated to Utah for programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, and the National School Lunch Program.
We believe the proposed citizenship question will intimidate ethnic minority and immigrant populations from participating in the census, leading to inaccurate and undercounted results. According to the American Immigration Council, nearly 40% of immigrants (roughly 100,000 individuals) in Utah are undocumented. Additionally, 6% of children in Utah (over 55,000 children who are U.S. citizens) live with parents who are undocumented and could possibly go uncounted if their parents do not participate. These numbers do not account for other populations in Utah who may have reason to be wary of a citizenship question, including over 40,000 immigrants who are eligible for naturalization (individuals who can constitutionally still be deported) and approximately 60,000 refugees (individuals that can have their status cancelled, revoked, or ceased). We believe members of these communities in Utah will be less likely to respond to the Census if it asks about citizenship, which will result in an inaccurate population count.
We are concerned that non-citizens living in Utah will fail to respond to the Census out of fear that the information will be used against them. While we are aware that federal law explicitly prevents the Census Bureau from sharing data, according to census officials, “fears, particularly among immigrant respondents, have increased markedly this year.” The sole field test in Rhode Island for the 2020 Census did not include the citizenship question. Even so, the results detailed in a 2017 Census Bureau memo showed immigrants were already reluctant to participate.
Additionally, we believe that costs will be greater than anticipated because the Census question has not yet been tested. A cost-effective Census is important to Utahns; this year, the Utah Legislature passed a concurrent resolution asking Congress to adequately fund the Census in order to ensure accurate and complete population counts. If the immigrant self-response rate to the census decreases dramatically, the cost of collecting this data by sending field workers to go door-to-door will be much higher.
While immigration and citizenship have become grossly political and partisan topics in today’s climate, the census should remain an apolitical event. Citizenship data sufficient for Voting Rights Act enforcement can be collected through the American Community Survey, which is conducted more frequently and does not bear the risk of affecting congressional districts. The citizenship question has immense potential to deter immigrant responses, threatens the integrity and accuracy of the census, and should be removed.