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Policy Summary

On Monday, March 26, The Washington Post reported that the Trump administration will be adding a question on citizenship to the 2020 U.S. Census. This decision was made at the request of  the Department of Justice, which wrote to the Census Bureau in December of 2017 asking that a citizenship question be reinstated to “provide census block level citizenship voting age population data (CVAP).” CVAP data is used to determine any violations to Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, according to Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross.

Following this announcement, the State of California sued the Trump administration, citing that the citizenship question is unconstitutional.

Analysis

The problem with the citizenship question is twofold: 1) it intimidates undocumented immigrants out of participating in the census; and 2) results of the census can be skewed to unfairly favor the GOP. Should undocumented immigrants abstain from participating in the 2020 Census for fear of deportation or other reasons surrounding the citizenship question, population numbers in urban areas where undocumented immigrants are most populous will fall. This impacts partisan politics because the census determines who draws district lines at the state level. State legislatures draw their own district lines in accordance with census data. The party in control of a state’s legislature is afforded the power to redraw the district lines after census data comes out in order to make sure that districts are near equal in population number, which is required at the state level. By deterring undocumented immigrants from participating in the 2020 census, urban populations will decline and districts will have to be redrawn to include suburban and even rural populations in the same district as urban ones. Because rural populations tend to be Republican, districts that are typically blue may become red following the 2020 census. Because some conservative Republicans have aired on the side of hard-lined immigration policies, more red districts could mean more unwarranted deportations for undocumented immigrants.

Engagement Resources

Act with America’s Voice: America’s Voice is a progressive immigration reform nonprofit that advocates for full and equal rights of all immigrants. The organization runs numerous campaigns, maps incidents of hate against people of color, and assists with voter registration, amongst other activities essential to promoting equity for immigrant lives in the United States. You can make a contribution to America’s Voice here.

Support the New Americans Campaign: The New Americans Campaign is a national, nonpartisan network of immigrant organizations, legal service providers, faith-based organizations, faith-based organizations, immigrant rights groups, foundations, and community leaders. A project by the Immigration Legal Resource Center, the campaign is committed to connecting lawful permanent residents to trusted legal assistance. Click here to support the campaign.

Stay Up to Date with the National Immigration Forum:  The National Immigration Forum is a DC-based nonprofit that leads the nation in constructive conversation and advocacy for the value of immigrants and immigration. The Forum is currently running a program called Immigration 2020, a multi-constituency effort to ensure that new Americans have the opportunities, skills, and status they need to contribute to the United States and realize their maximum potential. Join the organization’s email list to stay up date on all things related to immigration policy.

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This brief was compiled by Principal Immigration News Analyst Allie Blum. For questions or comments, you can reach her at allie@usresistnews.org.

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