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The Battle Over THE CENSUS: The decision to add a question about citizenship to the 2020 Census has prompted a massive fight over the once-a-decade national count.

The question seems simple enough at first glance: Are you a citizen?

But that question, which the Trump administration wants to add to the 2020 Census, has caused an enormous uproar. Nineteen states, a number of cities, and a variety of immigrant groups have filed six separate lawsuits to block the question from appearing on the once-a-decade national head count that will be conducted next year.

Those who oppose the citizenship question say that it will be so intimidating to immigrants--both legal and undocumented ones--that many will skip responding to the census altogether. And that, they say, could lead to a wildly inaccurate count with massive repercussions for the nation.

"What the Trump administration is requesting is not just alarming, it is an unconstitutional attempt to discourage an accurate census count," says Xavier Becerra, attorney general for California, one of the states suing to have the citizenship question removed.

The Trump administration, in announcing the addition of the citizenship question last spring, said it needs the data to better enable the Department of Justice to enforce voting laws. Having a more accurate count of citizens nationwide, officials say, would help them calculate the number of people eligible to vote in each state.

"I would think that's a very reasonable thing," then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions told Congress last April, "and I think concerns over it are overblown."

The administration also points out that a citizenship question was routinely part of the census through 1950. President Trump tweeted recently that the census would be "meaningless" without the "all important Citizenship Question."

The United States Census is more than just a count of the nation's population. It's a snapshot of America that determines everything from how many seats in Congress each state gets to how federal money is distributed and whether a new H&M opens near your house (see "What Is the Census Used For?" p. 17).

It all goes back to the Constitution, which requires the federal government to count the nation's residents every 10 years. It's been faithfully doing so since 1790. That first year, 650 census workers were instructed to track down every living person in the original 13 states. In 2020, the Census Bureau expects to hire 350,000 people to go door-to-door to interview those who don't send back the questionnaires that are mailed to every address in the nation. In their quest to tally every last person, census workers have been known to use snowmobiles to get to remote Alaskan villages and lobster boats to reach distant islands off the coast of Maine.

The Constitution calls for a count of all citizens and noncitizens living in the U.S. in order to redistribute the 435 seats in the House of Representatives, which are allocated based on population. (Places with expanding populations gain representatives, and those with declining populations lose them.)

"The Founding Fathers wanted everyone to participate, whether you were a citizen or not," says Robert Groves, provost of Georgetown University and a former director of the Census Bureau.

Suing the Government

This year, a number of states and advocacy groups are worried that the addition of the citizenship question might put that goal of universal participation at risk. So worried, in fact, that they took legal action soon after the citizenship question was announced, accusing Trump administration officials of violating the constitutional requirement to count everyone. The largest of the lawsuits--in which 18* states, the District of Columbia, and some cities and advocacy groups are suing the Trump administration--notes that the Census Bureau has warned for decades that questioning residents about their immigration status or citizenship would "inevitably jeopardize the overall accuracy of the population count."

Over the last six months, federal judges in New York, California, and Maryland have ruled against allowing the citizenship question, and the Trump administration has appealed to the Supreme Court. Last month, the justices heard arguments in the New York case. A ruling is expected before summer, when the printing of the census forms is scheduled to begin.

Fears Among Immigrants

How all these legal proceedings shake out could have an enormous impact. A little more than half of the nation's 44.5 million immigrants are not U.S. citizens. Of those non-citizens, a little more than half have visas or green cards that allow them to reside in the U.S. legally, and about 11 million of them are undocumented. But demographers worry that any U.S. household with at least one person who's not a citizen will be less likely to participate in the census because of fears of deportation--even though the census doesn't identify individual respondents.

Overall, 14 percent of U.S. residents live in households that include one or more people who aren't citizens. That figure rises sharply if you look at specific minority groups: Almost half of Hispanics and Asians--46 percent and 45 percent, respectively--live in households with at least one noncitizen.

This year, the lawsuit says, immigrants' fears over the census have been heightened: "Those concerns have been amplified by the antiimmigrant policies, actions, and rhetoric targeting immigrant communities from President Trump and this administration," the lawsuit says.

President Trump has made a crackdown on illegal immigration the centerpiece of his presidency. The fight over Trump's plan to build a wall on the border with Mexico prompted a shutdown of the federal government in December. Trump has stepped up arrests and deportations of undocumented immigrants, he's drastically reduced the number of refugees allowed into the country, and he's proposed tighter restrictions on legal immigration. The policies, Trump says, are aimed at keeping Americans safe and protecting U.S. jobs.

Because immigrants are concentrated in large states like New York and California, the effect of undercounting them would be to dilute the power of the country's most populous states, says William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, a liberal think tank in Washington, D.C. If 15 percent of noncitizens go uncounted, that would be enough to cost California and New York one congressional seat and one electoral vote each, to the likely benefit of Colorado and Montana, Frey says.

Democrats say what's really going on is an attempt by Republicans to increase their power by fudging the numbers.

"This is a brazen attempt by the Trump administration to cheat on the census, to undermine the accuracy of the census and to attack states that have large immigrant populations--states, most of which just happen to be Democratic states," says Congressman Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York.

Is Alabama Being 'Robbed'?

Republicans dismiss the complaints as nonsense.

"We always are better off having a more accurate count of citizens versus noncitizens," Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who's also chairman of the Republican Attorneys General Association, told the Associated Press. "I see no downside in this."

While Democratic-controlled states and pro-immigrant groups are trying to squash the citizenship question, the state of Alabama, which is under Republican control, is taking a very different tack. It has filed a lawsuit against the Commerce Department (which oversees the Census Bureau) seeking to block the census from counting undocumented immigrants at all. The lawsuit says that including undocumented immigrants in population totals used to apportion congressional seats inappropriately increases the representation of states with large immigrant populations--a practice "robbing" Alabama residents of "their rightful share of political representation."

"Congressional seats should be apportioned based on the population of American citizens, not illegal aliens," says Congressman Mo Brooks, Republican of Alabama.

But Frey, the Brookings demographer, maintains that there's another way to look at the census. Whether people are citizens or not and whether they're here legally or not, he says, they're part of our communities and they're using our roads, schools, and hospitals, and they need to be counted so resources are allocated fairly.

Ultimately, he argues, the census isn't a zero-sum game in which one group gains if another group loses. For example, the long-term economic health of older white Americans depends, he says, on a robust U.S. economy. But the economy won't be as strong as it could be if young people--who are increasingly minorities or the children of immigrants--haven't gotten the resources they need to succeed.

"Forcing an inaccurate accounting of who resides in the nation," says Frey, "will have long-term negative consequences for everyone."

The Supreme Court will ultimately decide which arguments win out. But despite all the controversy over the 2020 Census, some still hope that the national head count will turn out to be a unifying force to some extent.

"The census is the only event in the country where everyone is asked to participate," says Groves, the former Census Bureau director. "Elections are for those who are eligible to vote. Not everyone goes to schools. The census is unique."

What Will the Census Ask?

If the citizenship question does end up on the final form, the 2020 Census will pose these seven questions

* How old are you?

* What is your sex?

* What is your race?

* Are you of Hispanic origin? *

* How are the people in the household related to each other?

* Do you own or rent the home where you live?

* Are you a U.S. citizen?

* The census asks this question because it doesn't consider Hispanics a separate race.


Then & Now




COST PER PERSON: 1.1 cents



$12.9 billion




RELATED ARTICLE: What Is the Census Used For?

It determines much more than just seats in Congress--everything from school and highway funding to where Amazon opens its newest warehouse

The Constitution requires a census every 10 years to make sure representation in Congress reflects where people live.

But that's just the beginning of how census data is used.

It also determines how many votes each state gets in the Electoral College, the mechanism created by the Founders for electing presidents. (Add the state's total number of senators and House members for its electoral vote total.)

And the census has a big impact on where our tax dollars go. Every year, the federal government has a huge pot of money--more than $675 billion in 2018-that's distributed across the country based on census numbers. It determines how much help states get paying for schools, highway construction, grants to students to pay for college, and a variety of programs to help the poor.

Public health officials use census data to figure out where clinics should open, how much flu vaccine to ship where, and how to plan responses to medical emergencies.

Private companies use it too. The demographic information gathered (but not anyone's individual responses) is available to the public, and thousands of companies use it to help determine what products to sell, where to sell them, and how to market them.

When Amazon looks for a location to open a new warehouse, it's using census data to consider where they'll most likely be shipping which products. When Walmart tries to figure out where to open a store, it's probably analyzing census numbers. When Starbucks decides to introduce a new specialty drink, it's likely using the census to determine which parts of the country are most likely to buy it.

The influence of the data can't be underestimated, says California Attorney General Xavier Becerra: "The census numbers provide the backbone for planning how our communities can grow and thrive in the coming decade."


Additional Resources

Analyze the Article

1 Set Focus: Pose an essential question to guide discussion: Why is it important to know how many people live in the United States?

2 Read and Discuss: Have students read the article, marking key ideas and questions. Then ask them to answer the following questions, citing text evidence:

* What is the census? What does the federal government use the census data to determine? (The census is a count of the population in the U.S. that takes place every 10 years, as required by the Constitution. The federal government uses the data to redistribute seats in the House of Representatives and to determine how to allocate funds around the country for schools, roads, clinics, and a variety of programs.)

* What is the controversy surrounding the 2020 Census? (The controversy surrounding the 2020 Census is whether a question about citizenship should be added. Those in favor of adding it believe that an accurate count of citizens is needed to better enforce voting laws. Those against say that immigrants--both legal and undocumented--will skip responding to the census for fear of being targeted by the government, which would result in an inaccurate count of who lives in the country.)

* What are some specific ways census data could be useful to private companies? (Answers will vary. Example answer: Data about age could help a retail company know whether enough people in a certain neighborhood would find their goods appealing.)

3 Core Skill Practice: Print or project the activity Take a Stand (p. T12). Have students use it to plan and then write a persuasive essay on the issue of adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census.

Print or project:

* Article Quiz (online and on p. T9)

* Take a Stand (argument writing; online and on p. T12)

* Analyze the Cartoon (online and on p. T16)

* Be the Editor (grammar; online only)


* The U.S. population over time

Extend & Assess

4 Writing Prompt

What does William Frey mean when he says, "The census isn't a zero-sum game"? Do you agree?

5 Debate

Use your Take a Stand notes to argue your position: Should the 2020 Census include a citizenship question?

6 Quiz & Skills

Assess comprehension with the quiz (p. T9). Use Be the Editor (online only) to review grammar skills.


Test Your Knowledge

Choose the best answer for each of the following guestions about "The Battle Over the Census." For the analysis section, refer to the article as needed.


1. The first U.S. census was conducted in___.

a 1790

b 1870

c 1910

d 1950

2. The Constitution reguires the census to___.

a ask only six questions

b be conducted every five years

c count every resident in the U.S.

d have an annual budget of less than $1 million

3. According to the article, what might be an effect of adding a citizenship question to the census?

a The political power of every state would decrease.

b The most populous states might lose some political power,

c The most populous states might gain some political power,

d The political power of every state would either decrease or increase.

4. What is Alabama's goal in its lawsuit related to the census?

a to prevent businesses from using census data

b to ensure that every person in the U.S. is counted

c to block the census from counting undocumented immigrants

d none of the above


5. What idea does the author hint at in the first sentence of the article?

a The questions on the census have historically been very easy to answer,

b The census will attempt to count every person in the United States,

c The issue of adding a citizenship question to the census is actually quite complicated,

d none of the above

6. Which word or phrase from the first sentence best supports the answer to guestion 5?

a "The question"

b "seems simple"

c "enough"

d "a citizen"

7. The author says, "The United States Census is more than just a count of the nation's population." You can reasonably infer that she means the census also___.

a counts cars, homes, and schools

b provides insight about other countries

c influences many government and business decisions

d all of the above

8. Which phrase from the article uses an idiom?

a "has warned for decades"

b "How all these legal proceedings shake out"

c "open a new warehouse"

d "the only event in the country where everyone is asked to participate"

IN-DEPTH QUESTIONS Please use the other side of this paper for your responses.

9. Do you think the concern that immigrants--both legal and undocumented--would skip the census if it included a citizenship question is valid? Why or why not?

10. Imagine you are a business owner. How would you feel about a citizenship question being added to the census?


1. [a] 1790

2. [c] count every resident in the U.S.

3. [b] The most populous states might lose some political power.

4. [c] to block the census from counting undocumented immigrants

5. [c] The issue of adding a citizenship question to the census is actually quite complicated.

6. [b] "seems simple"

7. [c] influences many government and business decisions

8. [b] "How all these legal proceedings shake out"


Take a Stand

Do you think the 2020 Census should include a question about citizenship? After reading "The Battle Over the Census," take a side on this controversial issue. Follow the steps below to turn your ideas into a powerful persuasive essay. Use this sheet to plan your essay.

PARAGRAPH 1: Grab readers' attention and make a claim.

1. Start with a "hook," such as an anecdote, a surprising fact, or a pressing question. (Look for examples in Upfront.)

2. Include a very brief summary of the issue (one or two sentences).

3. Give a clear "thesis statement" that sums up your key arguments but does NOT use "I."

PARAGRAPHS 2, 3, and 4: Develop your arguments.

1. In each of these paragraphs, give an argument that supports your stand. Each argument should get its own paragraph. If you have only two arguments, you will have only two paragraphs in this section.

2. Develop each argument with facts, examples, and appropriately cited quotes from Upfront or other sources.




PARAGRAPH 5: Counter the other side's arguments.

1. Briefly acknowledge that some people take a different stand on this issue.

2. Explain why their key argument is wrong.

PARAGRAPH 6: Finish strong.

1. Remind readers of your own key arguments.

2. End by referring back to your "hook" or making a strong statement about why this issue matters.


Analyze the Political Cartoon

(Photo appears on p. 14 of the magazine.)

1. Who is the person with the speech bubble? What details indicate this? What is he trying to do?

2. What does the number "7" in the speech bubble indicate about what the census guestions include?

3. What are the people in the house doing? Why do you think the cartoonist depicts them this way?

4. Who are the signs on the lawn meant for? What suggests this?

5. What point do you think the cartoonist is trying to make about the 2020 Census?

Caption: In Alaska, a census worker used a team of sled dogs to reach a house during the 1940 Census.

Caption: Where will Starbucks release its next drink? It probably depends on census data.
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Article Details
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Author:Smith, Patricia
Publication:New York Times Upfront
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 13, 2019
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