Census Citizenship Question a ‘Major Barrier,’ Study Finds

By: - November 2, 2018 12:00 am

A new U.S. Census Bureau survey suggests that the new citizenship question on the 2020 census could be a “major barrier” to participation.

The finding may complicate the Trump administration’s defense of the question in several court challenges brought by states, cities and advocates who say the question is discriminatory and will cause an undercount of immigrants.

The 2020 Census Barriers, Attitudes, and Motivators Study (CBAMS), administered from February to April, included 50,000 households in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. One in 10 respondents said they thought one reason for the census was to “locate people living in the country without documentation.” Many participants said their suspicion is heightened because political discourse is targeting their ethnic groups whether they are citizens or not.

“ICE is working with different groups on deportation sweeps, and it would make me feel like I’m aiding in that,” one participant identified as Middle Eastern said, referring to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The Trump administration plans to add a citizenship question to the questionnaire sent to all homes for the first time since 1950, saying that the purpose is to enforce voting rights laws by getting accurate counts of qualified voters, who must be citizens.

The census study was presented Nov. 1 at an advisory committee meeting at Census Bureau headquarters in Maryland.

At least six court challenges against the question are ongoing, with a trial in the New York case scheduled to start in November.

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Tim Henderson
Tim Henderson

Tim Henderson covers demographics for Stateline. He has been a reporter at the Miami Herald, the Cincinnati Enquirer and the Journal News.