Immigrant advocates object to citizenship question on census

2010 was the last time a census form was sent out across the nation.

Wednesday, a group of immigrant advocates, warned adding a question about citizenship to the upcoming survey for 2020 will be more than just a head count, to them it’s a political weapon.

"This really shouldn't be about politics, this is about getting Texas' fair share of representation and resources,” said State Rep. Cesar Blanco (D) of El Paso.

Government videos urging participation promote how information from the census is used to distribute federal dollars for education, social programs and highways. The data can also determine who you vote for because the census information is used to draw congressional lines.

"What the Trump Administration is doing, is sending chills down the spine of every immigrant in Texas, and the country,” said Jessica Azua with the Texas Organizing Project.

Immigration advocates believe the fear generated by the citizenship question will limit participation and cause an undercount. "This is about the future of Texas, this is about the children of Texas, this decision will have an impact for decades to come and it’s important that every Texan pay attention to this decision,” said State Rep. Mary Gonzlez (D) El Paso.

In a memo issued Monday, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said, inquiring about citizenship was in response to a request by the Department of Justice. The DOJ claimed the information will help determine violations of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

Ross noted that section protects minority populations. He also concluded a citizenship question will not decrease the response rate of residents who already decided not to respond.

In another attempt to downplay the impact, officials with the Commerce Department said up until 1950 a question about citizenship, in some form, was asked in the census. The question is still on another government population survey; which is sent to a smaller selection of homes.  

There are other major countries, according to the Commerce Department, that do population counts with a citizenship question. They include: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Indonesia., Ireland, Mexico, Spain, and the United Kingdom.

Despite that, legal challenges to the question on the 2020 Census have started and advocates agreed community outreach programs - urging participation - could provide a political flip. 

"They don’t want you to be counted, they don’t want you to fill out the Census form, the best way to fight this is to actually fill out the form and send it in,” said Jose Carrillo with the National Association of Latino Elected Officials.

A response from a large number of non-citizens could send a big message.

One hard to ignore, and one that could jump start the immigration reform debate.

If you don’t fill out the census form, home follow up visits will be made a representative from the Census Bureau. If you refuse to participate after the visit, or you fill out false answers, you can be hit with a fine; although reportedly that hasn't happened in several decades.