This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Sunday, May 13, 2018

There is Still a Question About the Citizenship Question of Census 2020

A few days ago a House of Representatives panel met to ask questions of the person in the U.S. Justice Department who had officially requested that a citizenship question be included on the full census in 2020--not just on the American Community Survey and the Current Population Survey, as is currently the practice. He didn't show up. Fortunately, it seems that both Republicans and Democrats in the House were unhappy about that, but if my own Congressman is any indication, it may nonetheless be a tough fight to keep this question off the census form. On Friday, his office finally responded to my messages to him about the census question. Here is his response, which is just the usual talking points:

Dear John:

          Thank you for contacting me regarding the 2020 Census.  I welcome the opportunity to respond to this important issue.

          As you may know, the U.S. Census acts as a numerical count of every resident in the United States.  The Census is mandated under Article I, Section II of the Constitution and takes place every ten years.  This data is used to determine the number of seats each state has in the United States House of Representatives, distribute billions in federal funds, and ensure the safety of our communities.  Federal law requires all residents of the United States to answer the census.  

          Per the request of the Department of Justice, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced that the 2020 census would include a citizenship question in order to help better enforce the Voting Rights Act.  You'll be interested to know that Representative Carolyn Maloney [D-NY] introduced H.R. 5359, the 2020 Census Improving Data and Enhanced Accuracy (IDEA) Act in the House and Senator Brian Schatz [D-HI] introduced S. 2578 as the Senate companion bill under the same title.  Both measures would require the Secretary of Commerce to provide advance notice to Congress before changing any questions on the decennial census.  Currently, H.R. 5359 has been referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and S. 2578 has been referred to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs for further consideration. 

          As illegal immigration continues to be a serious problem in our country, I believe individuals who lawfully seek to become citizens of our country should be welcomed into our democracy.  It is important to know who resides in the United States, whether they are legal residents or not.  Additionally, between 1820 and 1950, almost every census included a question on citizenship in some form.  Today, other surveys used to sample populations, such as the Current Population Survey and the American Community Survey, continue to ask a question on citizenship. 

          Again, thank you for contacting me about this issue.  If you have a questions or concern please don't hesitate to contact me. 

                                                                                  Duncan Hunter
                                                                                  Member of Congress

This response from Congressman Hunter arrived on Friday, shortly before he appeared live on the Bill Maher show on HBO. He wasn't asked about the census, but he was asked about a variety of other things, for which he also just spouted the talking points.

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