Citizenship and Legal Status Questions on the 2020 Census | Preventing a Decennial Disaster
In January 2017, a draft Executive Order (EO) from the Trump administration, related to “prioritiz[ing] the interests of American workers,” began to circulate publicly. The order, which has not been issued, included a provision that directed the U.S. Census Bureau (also, the Bureau) to ask about U.S. citizenship and immigration status on the “long-form questionnaire in the decennial census.” This alarming development raised concerns for census stakeholders that members of Congress or the administration might resurrect proposals to add questions on U.S. citizenship and legal status to the 2020 Census form.
Indeed, such proposals subsequently did emerge in 2017, both legislatively and by executive action. Interestingly, proponents of adding citizenship and legal status questions to the 2020 Census and related American Community Survey (ACS) have given different and shifting reasons to justify the new data collection. This memo offers relevant background on these threats to a fair, accurate, and cost-effective census and comprehensive ACS, as well as arguments to counter these ill-advised, costly and, in some cases, unconstitutional proposals.