Census Has No Place Asking About Immigration Status

US government begs an unreasonable question

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The U.S. Census, already riddled with inaccuracy due to undercounting of immigrant, inner-city and houseless communities, stands to have its data further tainted in 2020.

A revoltingly partisan directive on the part of the current administration requested that the U.S. Census Bureau add questions about immigration status and citizenship to the 2020 Census. The finalized census questions must be submitted by March 31.

With the addition of questions asking about immigration status, the 2020 U.S. Census Bureau will create another hurdle for undocumented communities. Illustration by Anna León

The new questions are in line with the Trump administration’s flagrantly anti-immigrant domestic agenda. They exploit the legitimate fear present within the immigrant community to silence their voices and further the systemic deprivation of access to crucial public funds.

People in these communities have historically been undercounted in the census, corrupting the data gathered. Immigrants may be wary of filling out the questionnaire, much less talking to anyone with a government uniform or badge, due to their own or a family member’s citizenship or immigration status. The results of these inaccuracies are far-reaching, causing both reduced funding and representation in all levels of government for undercounted communities.

Census experts have resoundingly condemned the move by the administration, stating the addition of the questions would undermine the accuracy of the survey by reducing the responsiveness of immigrants.

“It will drive down the response rate enormously,” former Census Bureau director Kenneth Prewitt told the Washington Post. “It’s a step toward not counting the people you don’t want to count. And that goes very far in redrawing legislative boundaries.”

An already undercounted community stands to be further left out of their fair share of access to public utilities and services, as well as be even further removed from having a proportionate voice in the democratic

process. Little wonder the Government Accountability Office named the 2020 Census as a program with a “high risk” of failure due to “vulnerability to fraud, waste, abuse, or mismanagement.”

Each year, the U.S. Census Bureau spends over $10 billion and dispatches over half a million surveyors to tally the number of U.S. residents, as required by the constitution. While this may sound like a daunting and inefficient task, the Census is deeply impactful on the future of the states, cities and communities in our nation.

Population determines government representation. Representation determines the allocation of $600 billion in federal funding annually. As a result, undercounted communities are not afforded their fair share of public funds and services such as improved roads and buildings or public transportation and educational opportunities.

Despite census experts’ objections, the administration’s insistence on invasive inquiry into immigration status in the 2020 Census is no less than a naked attempt to further disenfranchise an already underrepresented community.

The Trump administration’s xenophobic tendencies have reached dizzying new heights. While the directive is deplorable, it is hardly surprising coming from an administration that has implemented multiple travel bans, sought to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and build a wall on the Mexican border.

The new questions are not only insensitive and invasive, but deliberately harmful. Responding to the census is already an intimidating experience for communities who are most in need of being accurately counted. The administration’s abhorrent and misguided actions must be opposed and prevented, before they irrevocably damage the fabric of the nation.