The announcement that the Trump administration decided to add a question regarding citizenship on the 2020 Census faced immediate backlash for a number of reasons. One of the reasons being that the Trump administration not only added a citizenship question, but the long-awaited question that aimed to make it easier for the Hispanic community to identify themselves on the Census was brushed aside.
For the past several years, the Census Bureau has been making it a primary focus to figure out how to accurately count Latinos after many were left without an accurate choice regarding race and ethnicity on the 2010 Census. When faced with “white”, “black”, or “some other race”, many Latinos chose “some other race” for lack of a better option.
The Census Bureau spent an entire decade trying to research and test ways to redesign a Latino identity question, all of which was finely detailed in a 2015 report. Their decision was proposed to the Office of Management and Budget to replace the 2010 race and ethnicity question on the 2020 Census.
However, the Census Bureau said it was keeping the 2010 race question on Hispanics, with no explanation on how this decision was made. Not only that, but the Trump administration now plans to ask who is a citizen and who is not on the upcoming Census. This decision was announced just days before the March 31 deadline.
“He’s doing his best to whitewash Latinos out of existence,” Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), said of President Donald Trump. “This is someone bent on excluding Latinos.”
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, whose agency oversees Census, explained that he spoke with Census workers and reviewed outcomes from previous practices in his reviewing of adding the citizenship question.
Over the years, the responses given on the Census have provided useful and interesting information. Not only do the responses tell things like how many people live in which areas of the country, but also intriguing information like the popularity of backyard barbecues — according to the Census Bureau, 79.1 million Americans grilled in 2016. The Census is also key to receiving accurate counts of each and every ethnicity and race in the country, which people fear this new Census question will not do.
It’s crucial to get an accurate count of Latinos because the Census results are used to split up the 435 members of the House based on population. Despite the fact that non-citizens cannot vote, they are constitutionally guaranteed representation in Congress. Without an accurate count of the Hispanic community, Latinos may not get the chance to elect the candidates they want. States are required to draw political districts that ensure votes of racial and ethnic minority populations are not thinned out. If Latinos are undercounted, fewer of these districts could exist.
Already 17 states, Washington D.C., and six cities have vowed to sue the Trump administration to block the addition of the citizenship question to the 2020 Census. People believe that with this new question and the same ethnic- and race-exclusive question, the Census will provide less revealing data and ultimately take the country a step back.
Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), explains that his group plans to get Congress to reject the hastily added citizenship question.
“This is our Constitution as well as anybody else’s,” Vargas said. “And the Constitution requires the enumeration of all persons.”
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