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Viewpoint: The Harm of the Citizenship Question in the 2020 Census

Census Bureau, we have a problem.

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Recently, the Department of Justice proposed the idea of adding a question to the 2020 Census regarding a person’s citizenship status.

So what exactly is involved in a United States Census? Most simply put, it is information collected every ten years from everyone who lives in the United States. The most recent 2010 Census asked ten basic questions about who lived in each household. Obviously, not everyone filled out this Census data, and there is nothing stopping someone from lying on the Census, so the information given is not 100% accurate about the population of the United States. The United States Census has been critiqued for a variety of things from “Archaic Race Categories” used to its inaccuracy of national economic growth.

But what is most important about the census is what the data is used for. In addition to distribution of Electoral College votes and district mapping, census data is also used to allocate funding. This funding is used towards necessary resources for residents including but not limited to schools, hospitals, and emergency services.

The Department of Justice announced that they were calling for a question to be added on individual’s citizenship status for the 2020 census. Following this, people began to criticize the Department of Justice for it. According to The New York Timesit would especially impact communities with high immigrant populations. One of biggest topics of the recent election was immigration reform where circumstances were often painted with a broad (and inaccurate) stroke. Adding a question about citizenship status would severely impact those that do not have the full privilege of United States citizenship from answering the Census.

When government agencies have a difficult enough time getting residents to respond to surveys, adding politically charged questions like this make it even more difficult. The Department of Justice should be looking for ways to make more residents answer the Census rather than adding questions making entire groups avoid it altogether.

Nicole Masaki is a current student at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York and is graduating in May 2018. She is a triple major in English, Environmental Studies, and Philosophy.

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