It’s in the Constitution: For the census, every person counts

Published in The Houston Chronicle on

Opinion Piece by Advancing Justice | AAJC and NALEO Educational Fund

There has not been a citizenship question asked on the decennial census in the past 70 years. There is no basis for adding it now.

We do not need this question to enforce the Voting Rights Act, as some have suggested. In fact, since the Voting Rights Act was enacted in 1965, the Census Bureau has provided the Department of Justice with citizenship data from other surveys that have been used by litigators and the federal courts to enforce the VRA. The Supreme Court has confirmed that the current methods are constitutional.

Both of our organizations represent minority and immigrant communities, and we have led our communities’ efforts to participate in multiple censuses. Getting immigrants and foreign-born citizens to trust the government and respond to the census always brings unique challenges. In this current anti-immigrant environment, make no mistake that immigrants and citizens who have immigrants in their household will be reluctant to participate in a census that asks about citizenship. During its own testing on other subjects, Census Bureau field representatives are already reporting widespread and unprecedented fear among respondents when immigration issues are raised in any form.