A simple question proposed to be added to the 2020 census is sparking a lot of controversies: “Is this person a citizen of the United States?”
The Trump administration wants to add the question to the 2020 census but a lower court ruling against it has now put the issue in the hands of the Supreme Court.
The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico says the question could hurt state funding if it makes it on the survey and stops people from participating in the census altogether.
“If the census had included a question like that, it would have enormous consequences for the way we apportion congressional seats, state legislative seats, that information is used for the allocation of social services, where healthcare facilities are set up, where schools are put, where childcare and senior facilities are put,” said Peter Simonson, Executive Director of ACLU of New Mexico. “Businesses look at that census data for where they’re going to set up operations, for where they’re going to open stores, who their customers are going to be.”
Much of the federal funding for various programs New Mexico gets is decided on the state’s population, so counting every resident of New Mexico is critically important.
“We need an accurate census count and by an accurate census count, I mean, we need to count each and every individual that currently exists in this country, where they reside, so that information can be used for all those critical purposes,” said Simonson.
As for why the administration wants the question on next year’s census — the Justice Department says it wants data about citizenship that would help it enforce the part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that would protect against discrimination. According to the ACLU, the Trump administration is appealing the lower court’s ruling. The Supreme Court will hear arguments on April 23.
The last time the Census Bureau asked U.S. households a question about citizenship was in 1950.