The US Department of Commerce announced Monday that it will reiterate a citizenship status issue for the 2020 Census. It is said to help enforce the electoral law.
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
We have a big announcement tonight on the upcoming census in 2020. The Commerce Department, which oversees the census, says the questionnaire will include a question on citizenship. NPR's Hansi Lo Wang covers demographics and all things related to census. And he joins us to explain what that means. Hello, Hansi.
HANSI LO WANG, BYLINE: Hey, Ari.
SHAPIRO: Why is the Commerce Department adding a citizenship question to the census?
WANG: Well, the Commerce Department says it answers one He is requested by the Ministry of Justice, which sent a letter in December stating that a civic issue had to be added to the census to get a better count of citizens in the country In particular, citizens of voting age, through the Justice Department, says it needs better data to better enforce the electoral code, in particular, provisions to prevent racial discrimination. But many advocates of civil rights activists have a number of questions on this question, especially at the time when it was requested and because the electoral law has been based on estimates since the adoption of the electoral act.
SHAPIRO: It's not hard to imagine a scenario in which undocumented people would not fill out the census, fearing that they might write that they have no citizenship. What would that mean?
WANG: Well, that's the really big question. A lot of census observers, former Census Bureau directors I've talked to, many census experts said ̵
Those – these census figures – all these census figures are used to redefine seats in Congress, especially the House of Representatives. And these numbers also affect how billions of dollars are being spread across the country and, as you know, from the federal level down to the local level, where school districts are finding out how to allocate resources. This could have a big impact if immigrants do not participate in the census in 2020.
SHAPIRO: Did the Census ever ask if people are US citizens or not?
WANG: Yes. Citizenship is not a new topic. A smaller survey by the Census Bureau, the American Community Survey, asks each year for citizenship. And this poll goes to 3.1 – 3.5, rather – millions of households. But the last time that all American households were interviewed on a census form was in 1950. So that would be a really big one – that's a really big change the Commerce Department has – announces this tonight – for the first time in decades, that asking all residents in the United States is perhaps a form of a question of, if born abroad, is the person naturalized? That was what was asked in 1950. We will see how they formulate this question in 2020.
SHAPIRO: Is that the last word in the last few seconds, or can it be challenged?
WANG: Well In recent weeks, civil rights groups have warned that they are preparing to file lawsuits to prevent a citizenship issue from being added.
SHAPIRO: All right, Hans Lo Wang, NPR, thank you. 19659003] WANG: You're welcome.
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