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JACL: Citizenship Question Has No Place on 2020 Census

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WASHINGTON — The National JACL issued the following statement on March 28:

“The Japanese American Citizens League objects to the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census questionnaire.

“The Constitution calls for the census to count all persons in the country, not just citizens. The Justice Department has requested the addition of this question knowing that it has the potential to scare immigrants into not responding to the survey. The administration will fail its constitutional duty to complete an accurate decennial count.

“Japanese Americans are fully aware of the implications of how the census data can be abused. During World War II, the Census Bureau released the specific names and addresses of Japanese Americans to the U.S. Secret Service. This was kept secret for decades and only fully revealed just over 10 years ago. We remind people of this story because it is clearly within the realm of possibility that the census can be weaponized against communities such as our own.

“The chilling effect on a full and accurate count cannot be accepted. The government has a constitutional mandate to conduct a true and accurate count. The impacts of an inaccurate count are numerous, from apportionment of government resources and representation to the public utility of census data for public policy and business planning. We cannot afford to have an inaccurate count.

“We urge Congress to act quickly to overturn this decision and block the addition of a citizenship question to the census.”

Rep. Mark Takano (D-Riverside), a member of the House Census Caucus, said, “The Constitution clearly states that the goal of the decennial census is to provide an accurate count of people living in the United States. By adding a citizenship question, the Trump Administration is purposefully undermining that goal in order to intimidate minority and immigrant communities and use the census as a political weapon.

“The distrust of the Trump Administration among immigrant and minority populations already threatens the accuracy of the upcoming census. This decision, which is being made without the usual testing process that protects the integrity of the census, will exacerbate the under-counting of communities that are already under-represented.

“This yet another example of the Trump Administration launching a politically motivated attack on California. I fully support [California] Attorney General [Xavier] Becerra’s decision to challenge the use of the citizenship question in court, and I call on my colleagues in Congress to pass legislation that will improve the reliability of the census.”

In January, Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) co-sponsored legislation to prohibit the Department of Commerce from including any question regarding one’s citizenship or immigration status on the U.S. Census.

“The administration’s ongoing effort to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census is part of a concerted effort to cater to the anti-immigrant base and foment fear espoused by President Trump,” Hirono said at the time. “Our legislation recognizes the important role census data plays in informing decisions with far-reaching implications, including on government services, allocation of resources, and redistricting.

“By prohibiting the inclusion of unnecessary, politically motivated questions that would reduce participation by immigrants and people of color, our bill will help to keep the Census non-partisan and ensure that everyone is counted, as required by the Constitution.”

The administration’s plans suffered another major blow in the courts on April 5 when a third federal judge, U.S. District Judge George Hazel of Maryland, found the decision to include the citizenship question to be unlawful, NPR reports.

“The unreasonableness of defendants’ addition of a citizenship question to the census is underscored by the lack of any genuine need for the citizenship question, the woefully deficient process that led to it, the mysterious and potentially improper political considerations that motivated the decision and the clear pretext offered to the public,” wrote Hazel, who concluded that the decision by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who oversees the census, to add the question violated administrative law.

Federal judges in New York and California previously came to the same conclusion.

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  1. Before you go anti-Trump, is there a legitimate reason to know how many citizens vs non-citizens there are residing in the U.S. Do you have to provide services distinctly for each group? Are there fingers being pointed if you do not budget enough funds to serve those groups? What if the % of each group is different in separate states or cities (eg. Vermont vs Texas)? And for the purposes of politics does it matter if the non-citizens are grossly underestimated or overestimated, just as if we guess there are 400 million firearms in the U.S. Can you make laws based on a bad guess?

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