The Census Bureau warned last fall that on the basis of focus groups and pre-tests for the 2020 census, staff reported increased fear among immigrants that their voluntarily provided information was being used against them and their families.
And on Tuesday, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman cited similar fears as he led 18 states, six major cities, and the US Mayors' Conference in filing a lawsuit against the Trump administration for citing a citizenship issue in the year 2020. The state of California has already filed a separate lawsuit.
"This is a blatant attempt to undermine the census," Schneiderman said at a news conference in New York. "Someone from the Trump government knocking on your door and asking for your citizenship status would cause real fear." States and cities claim that they lose hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding if their immigrant populations are underestimated.
Census Bureau staff reports include several examples ̵
These concerns, reported by Census Bureau staff, preceded the December Ministry of Justice's request that a citizenship status issue be included in the 2020 Census form.
But even before the Ministry of Commerce decided at the end of last month late last month to include the controversial issue, Census Bureau staff cited concerns over current "political issues" and wanted President Donald Trump DACA – The Obama-era postponed action on Childhood Arrivals Program, which protected undocumented immigrants from being illegally protected in the US as children. The staff said that the uncertainty about the future of the program worried immigrants' concerns about passing information to the government.
There are "potential barriers to participation by respondents in the 2020 Census", which "are particularly worrying as they disproportionately affect populations that are difficult to count and have an impact on data quality," he said Memorandum of 20 September 2017 Directorate for Research and Methodology.
"Politics changed everything," a sales representative was quoted after conducting focus groups in spring 2017.
Both the memo and the presentation of an employee of the Census Bureau to the National Advisory Committee on Racism, Ethnicity and other Populations in November pointed to a great reluctance of immigrants who had identified the staff in relation to some of the participants Focus groups and pre-test measures in the past.
"Especially considering our current political climate, the Latino community will not sign up because they think the census will pass on their information and people can search for them," noted one interviewer.
The Department of Commerce emphasized the data protection measures surrounding the census information.
There are "strict privacy standards of Census employees," said a spokesman for the Ministry of Commerce ABC News. "Censuses are safe, secure and protected by federal law, answers can only be used to compile statistics, and every employee of the Census Bureau takes an oath to protect the information received from respondents." Some records are not shared with third parties, including The exchange of personal data is punishable by heavy fines and up to five years in jail – or both. "
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross's decision of March 26 to include the Citizenship Question in the census has increased concern among Democrats, civil rights groups, government officials, and academics that non-citizens would not attend, resulting in an underachievement of the population The consequence would have been particularly affected urban areas where immigrants live.
Census questions submitted to Congress
The Census 2020 questions were officially submitted to Congress last Thursday.
The citizenship question appears in the submitted document, which was obtained by ABC News, and is the second question on the census form (the first question asks for the age of a respondent).
"Is this person a citizen of the United States?" Is the question.
Under each question, the department provides a rationale for their inclusion.
In their rationale for this issue, the department writes a "person's citizenship is used to create statistics on citizens and non-citizens populations," which "is essential for enforcing the Electoral Law and its safeguards against electoral discrimination."
How and if the question is changed or attacked is unclear. A legislator could propose legislation or legislative amendment to make a change, but this proposal would have to be made through the normal legislative procedure, which means that both chambers of Congress will be adopted and signed by the President.
Censorship staff demands additional support
Census Bureau field workers as a result of these focus groups and pre-test results have requested additional support in the form of an "overcoming mistrust" advertising campaign and an "immigration statement to appear on the materials" as the 2020 census begins.
Both the focus group participants and the staff members they looked after suggested using a message such as "Your information will not be shared with others, including other government agencies."
However, the Census Bureau noted that it has "used similar statements in the past, but using such a statement now is problematic."
It is unclear whether Ross or his associates are aware of the Census Bureau's memorandum or the November presentation to its advisory census committee. The Census Bureau referred ABC News to the Department of Commerce, which did not comment on whether this information was publicly available on the Census Bureau website.
However, a spokesperson for the department noted, "Minister Ross noted that the need for accurate citizenship data and the limited burden that the reintroduction of the citizenship issue would impose would outweigh the fears of a potentially lower response rate."
The spokesman also pointed out that for the 2020 census, there would be "robust marketing and public relations" in "many different languages". The department plans to spend $ 480 million on marketing and advertising, compared to $ 376 million for the 2010 census.
It was not just census workers who saw immigrants become more reluctant to participate in government programs.
Additional concerns about involvement
Mayor of Mesa, Arizona John Giles, a Republican, is concerned that non-citizens or even legal immigrants with non-legal family members do not want to participate in the census.
He cited the changes brought by the Trump administration to the DACA as a major cause of mistrust among immigrants.
Arrests in Washington and Mississippi shortly after Trump's election made the new president discontinue the Obama administration's policy against the so-called Dreamers, the children of illegal immigrants.
"Why should we expect them to believe us?" Giles said to ABC News of the immigrant community. "It will be a very difficult sale."
He fears that this may be the "worst census in history".