July 05, 2018

Don’t Include a Citizenship Question on the Decennial Census

In our Focus on Communal Priorities published in February 2018,  we stated “that the proposed inclusion of a question regarding citizenship and immigration status in the decennial census will suppress response rates, contribute to a substantial undercount of the population in our region, and inevitably result in the malapportionment of our elected representatives.” In March 2018 the United States Department of Commerce and the Bureau of the Census decided to include a question on citizenship and a coalition of State Attorneys General and other parties sued to ensure a full and fair Census. Yesterday, Judge Jesse Furman of the United States District Court,  Southern District of NY ruled that the plaintiffs could proceed with the next phase of litigation: discovery.

The Attorneys Generals’ complaint documents the fact that the citizenship question did not appear in the decennial census since 1950. For decades the Census Bureau itself maintained that, “demanding citizenship or immigration status on the decennial census would drive down response rates and seriously impair the accuracy of the decennial population count”. The JCRC-NY applauds the exemplary leadership of New York Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood on this issue.

We agree with Attorney General Underwood’s conclusion, based on decades of Census Bureau and academic research, that the insertion of the citizenship question could lead to a “major undercount that would threaten billions in federal funds and New York’s fair representation in Congress and the Electoral College.” Charles S. Temel, President and Michael S. Miller, Executive Vice President and CEO of the JCRC-NY observed, “Demographic changes across the United States will inevitably cost New York a seat in Congress. An undercount might lead to the loss of a second seat.”