CSAC Bulletin Article

Citizenship Question Barred From 2020 Census…For Now

January 17, 2019

A federal judge recently ruled against the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, declaring the Commerce Secretary violated federal law when he ordered the inclusion of a citizenship question nearly a year ago. The judge’s ruling is a victory for counties and complete count efforts, but not cause for celebration quite yet as the issue could be taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court in the coming months.

When the Department of Commerce announced last year it was adding a citizenship question to the census, several groups (CSAC included) raised concerns that a citizenship question would deter participation among immigrant populations and increase the likelihood of an undercount.

California counties would be acutely affected by the inclusion of a citizenship question on the 2020 Census because California is home to the highest number of foreign-born residents in the nation. Additionally, county budgets rely heavily upon federal funding, much of which is allocated based on census data.

This recent decision is considered “round one” in what is expected to be a long legal battle over whether or not a citizenship question should be included in the 2020 Census. While the judicial branch continues to weigh the case, Congress is also getting involved, with Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) planning to re-introduce the “Census IDEA Act.” This bill would outlaw changes to the decennial census that have not been researched, studied, and tested for at least three years and that have not been submitted to Congress.

However, the clock is ticking and time is of the essence. According to media reports, any court challenges must be completed by June 2019 in order to meet the print deadline for census materials. CSAC will keep counties informed as more news becomes available on the matter.

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