Adding Citizenship Question to 2020 Census is Untimely, Unnecessary, and Unwise

WASHINGTON – Today, The Leadership Conference Education Fund, National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund, and Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, hosted a telephone press briefing to discuss the Department of Justice’s request to include a citizenship question in the upcoming census. The Census Bureau is required to submit questions to Congress for the 2020 Census by April 1, 2018.

A recording of today’s call is available here.

Participants on the call spoke out about the untimely, unnecessary, and unwise request. Adding a citizenship question would compromise the census’ constitutional responsibility to conduct a fair and accurate count of every person living in the United States.

Arturo Vargas, executive director for the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund said, “The U.S. Department of Justice’s request to add an untested question on citizenship to the 2020 Census would waste millions of taxpayer dollars and sabotage the Census Bureau’s efforts to achieve a full and accurate count.  Census Bureau field representatives conducting other surveys and experiments are already reporting widespread and unprecedented fear among test respondents. Adding a question on citizenship at this time would only fan the flames of fear and distrust in the Census, further risking depressed response rates. There are no second chances with the census. As I expressed to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross personally in a phone conversation with him last week, NALEO Educational Fund strongly urges him to reject the U.S. Department of Justice’s request and to move forward with only those questions that have been thoroughly researched and tested in advance of 2020.”

“In their letter to the Department of Commerce, Trump Justice Department officials claimed that this citizenship question is necessary to enforce the Voting Rights Act,” said Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference Education Fund. “As someone who had the specific responsibility of enforcing the Voting Rights Act, I find this argument incredible for two reasons: One, this administration has been downright hostile to Voting Rights Act protections specifically, and civil rights overall. So it’s incredulous to think they suddenly found religion on protecting voting rights now. But more importantly, their argument is factually incorrect, morally bankrupt, and legally wrong. The Justice Department does not need this question to enforce civil rights protections or the Voting Rights Act.”

“The administration is trying to sabotage the 2020 Census with the addition of a citizenship question that it knows will chill participation among groups that it seeks to marginalize. Without an accurate count, valuable dollars that support services for immigrant and other communities of color could be lost,” said Terry Ao Minnis, director of census and voting programs for Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC. “The Constitution mandates that all people in the U.S. must be counted and this citizenship question runs counter to that mission.”

We have seen a groundswell of bipartisan, mainstream opposition to the Justice Department’s request from a wide range of census stakeholders. More than 60 members of Congress have called on Secretary Ross to reject the politicization of the 2020 Census and the Justice Department’s irresponsible request. 161 Democratic and Republican mayors, and former Census Bureau Directors, also urged Secretary Ross to reject untested questions that would threaten census accuracy.

The Leadership Conference Education Fund builds public will for federal policies that promote and protect the civil and human rights of all persons in the United States. The Education Fund’s campaigns empower and mobilize advocates around the country to push for progressive change in the United States.

NALEO Educational Fund is the leading nonprofit organization that facilitates full Latino participation in the American political process, from citizenship to public service.  To learn more about NALEO Educational Fund’s work on Census issues, visit or text CENSUS to 97779 to opt in and subscribe to the organization’s Get-Out-The-Count SMS Campaign (standard messaging rates apply).

Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC has a mission to advance the civil and human rights for Asian Americans and to build and promote a fair and equitable society for all.