The U.S. Census Bureau announced last week that the 2020 census will ask every American household to record which members of their family are U.S. citizens. Just a few hours after making the announcement, the Beaurea was facing a lawsuit over the decision. A group of 14 states, led by California, are trying to force the Federal Government to back down and leave the citizenship question off the census when it goes out to the American households two years from now.

According to the Government, it’s reason for asking the citizenship question is a simpler one: Asking about citizenship will provide more information about who exactly is in the United States, and more information is always good.The Government also says that it is simply reinstating a question that has been a part of the census since 2010’s.

The emergence of this citizenship question has critics skeptical that the Trump administration would use this information for good reasons. Critics are saying that the not-so-subtle implication is that it is a part of a broader project by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and company to take American back to the pre-civil rights era. Critics are seriously concerned that adding a single citizenship question to the 2020 census could scare away millions of immigrants from filling out their mandatory surveys — throwing off the count of who’s present in America that’s used to determine congressional apportionment for the next decade, allocate federal funding for infrastructure, and serve as the basis for huge amounts of American research.

A skewed census would hurt the places in America where Latinos are most likely to live — cities and blue states — fueling both the lawsuit and the suspicion that the Trump administration is engaging in deliberate subterfuge. The concern was real even before the citizenship question was added. Last year, a bureau researcher flagged to a census advisory committee that focus groups and field tests were having serious problems getting immigrants to complete the survey.

Now it should be noted that Federal law strictly prohibits the Census Bureau from sharing information. But under Trump, it’s really hard for any government official to persuade immigrants — or US-born Latinos — that she can be trusted to protect them. Adding an explicit citizenship question makes the challenge that much harder. And if the 2020 census fails, it could throw Congress’s representation for the next decade — and our understanding of who exactly lives in America — entirely off-kilter.

The Trump administration is defending its decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census by saying there has been a citizenship question as part of every recent census except the 2010 one. It also explains why critics are saying the Trump administration is reinstating something that hasn’t existed since 1950.

 

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