Op-Ed: Why The 2020 Census Should Not Ask About Citizenship

Last month, the US. Department of Justice sent a letter to U.S. Census Bureau Director Ron Jarmin with a controversial request: include a question regarding citizenship status on the 2020 census. The move was met with swift opposition from immigration advocates, who argue that it would undermine the census’ integrity and worry that the information could be used to target immigrant communities.

Monterey County Board of Supervisors Chairman and President of the Latino Caucus of California Counties Luis A. Alejo has been leading that charge. The Caucus recently sent a letter to Jarmin and the U.S. Secretary of Commerce outlining their opposition to the idea. Now, Alejo has also penned an op-ed laying out his argument for excluding a question about citizenship from the 2020 census.

As county supervisors, we represent our constituents without regard to their political ideology, gender, income and, yes, even their legal status. To do otherwise would be an insult to the very foundation of representative democracy on which this country is built. And that is why we regard the Department of Justice’s request as not only disingenuous, but dangerous.

At a time when anti-immigrant vitriol has reached a fever pitch, we believe that including such a politically motivated question will have a chilling effect on the millions of immigrants that live in our counties, increase fear across communities and, ultimately, undermine the very purpose of the census to count every resident.

Fearing how information will be used by an administration that has embraced anti-immigrant rhetoric, significant numbers of immigrant residents and their families will simply not participate. Researchers have already alerted the Census Bureau to the very negative consequence of having significant numbers of immigrant families refusing to participate, including a decline in the overall response rates and obtaining incomplete information.

It will also make the work by census enumerators more difficult by not being able to gain trust of many immigrant families. This especially matters to California as we are home to the largest immigrant population in the nation. Non-citizens in our state have many different immigrant statuses such as lawful permanent residents, asylees, refugees, Temporary Protected Status beneficiaries, visa holders and undocumented.

Read the full op-ed here.