2020 Census
September 18, 2018

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross appears to have misled Congress when he testified that the Justice Department had "initiated" including a question about U.S. citizenship on the U.S. census, according to newly unredacted documents released Monday as part of a lawsuit. Ross said in March that the Justice Department had pushed for the citizenship question, which hasn't been included in the census since 1950, so it could enforce Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The new documents add to the evidence that Ross was the driving force.

In a September 2017 email to Ross, Commerce official Earl Comstock said he had approached the Justice Department in May to "discuss the citizenship question," and "Justice staff did not want to raise the question given the difficulties Justice was encountering in the press at the time (the whole Comey matter)." Comstock said he then tried the Department of Homeland Security, and they pointed him back to the Justice Department, so he asked a Commerce Department lawyer to explore "how Commerce could add the question to the census itself." A few months later, the Justice Department formally requested the citizenship question.

The Census Bureau's chief scientist, other researchers, and a bureau-sponsored marketing campaign have found that including the citizenship question depresses the participation of Latinos, Asians, and other minorities, skewing the constitutionally mandated decennial head count. Ross "personally lobbied the attorney general to submit the memorandum that the secretary 'then later relied on to justify his decision,'" plaintiffs' lawyers argued in the lawsuit, one of six around the country seeking to strike the citizenship question.

U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman, who's overseeing the lawsuit in Manhattan, had ordered the Trump administration to release the unredacted memos, saying they "go to the heart" of the central question of Ross' intent in adding the citizenship question. Furman has potentially scheduled a trial to start Nov. 5, though Justice Department lawyers are arguing against a trial and Ross deposition. Peter Weber

April 24, 2018

The next census is getting another update.

Aside from the addition of a controversial citizenship question, the 2020 census will also count same-sex couples for the first time in U.S. history, the Census Bureau recently announced.

Previously, the census gathered data about coupled households with two options: "husband or wife" or "unmarried partner." Now, people will able to check "opposite-sex husband/wife/spouse," "same-sex husband/wife/spouse," "opposite-sex unmarried partner," or "same-sex unmarried partner."

The Census Bureau told NBC News that the 2015 Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage on a federal level made the change necessary. The number of same-sex couples has previously been estimated by cross-checking spouses' answers to the form's gender question.

Census data, collected once a decade, helps determine how to allocate federal funding to state and local governments, as well as assists in assigning the number of seats in the House of Representatives for each state. Many advocacy groups have pushed for the census to include a question about same-sex couples, NBC News reports. Summer Meza

April 4, 2018

On Tuesday, 17 states, led by New York, plus seven cities and the U.S. Conference of Mayors filed suit to block the Census Bureau and Commerce Department from including a question about respondents' citizenship on the 2020 census. Texas is not among the motley group of states in the suit — which includes Iowa and North Carolina as well as Massachusetts and Oregon — and it did not file its own lawsuit like California did. But Texas has a lot to lose from adding a citizenship question to the census, as The Texas Tribune explains:

An accurate census is critical to the state. It is used to determine how many representatives Texas is entitled to elect to Congress. And the Texas Legislature and local governments rely on the data to redraw corresponding political boundaries. ... Almost 5 million immigrants live in the state, and it's estimated that about two-thirds are noncitizens — legal permanent residents, immigrants with another form of legal status, or undocumented immigrants. Additionally, more than 1 million Texans who are U.S. citizens live with at least one family member who is undocumented. ...

The repercussions of an immigrant undercount in Texas could go as far as curtailing the state's projected gain of three congressional seats in Congress. Texas Hispanics — who make up a majority of the state's immigrant population — were behind 65 percent of the population growth that helped Texas gain four seats after the 2010 Census. Almost 700,000 immigrants — just about the number of people living in each congressional district — reside in Houston, where officials are worried about reaching immigrants who are "unsettled by recent actions and recent rhetoric." [The Texas Tribune]

"It's always hard to count immigrants, but this is really going to be a tough issue," Ryan Robinson, demographer for Austin, tells The Texas Tribune. If the 2020 census includes a question about citizenship status, "that would be the torpedo that sinks the boat." You can read more at The Texas Tribune. Peter Weber

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