Democrats slam citizenship question on U.S. census

Kathy Castor

Two Florida congressional Democrats are criticizing the Trump administration’s decision to include a question about citizenship status in the 2020 census, warning that Florida businesses and families will suffer if it’s included in the survey that will go out to every American in two years.

Tampa U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor issued a statement to the Florida Phoenix saying that while such a question sounds “innocuous, experts say it could lead to inaccurate census results and flawed reporting on who actually resides in communities across America.”

Her comments came just as the U.S. Department of Commerce closed the public comment period on what should be included in the government’s 2020 census. The U.S. Constitution requires a census of the country every 10 years, and it determines the composition of Congress as well as the allocation of federal funding.

The controversial question asks: Is this person a citizen of the United States? And offers boxes to check if a person was born in the U.S. or is not a citizen.

The question has not been asked in the census since 1950.

“Inaccurate census results would then skew the tax dollars that flow back to communities for education, transportation, housing and more,” Castor says. “Florida is such a large and diverse state that it is in our best interests to have the most robust and accurate census count.”

On Monday, Central Florida Congressman Darren Soto co-signed onto a letter sent to the Commerce Dept. by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, calling on the agency to rescind its decision to include the citizenship question on the census.

The letter also cited the Trump administration’s “aggressive immigration policies” that the Hispanic Caucus says has already instilled fear in those communities.

“Early surveys have documented that some immigrants are afraid to provide information or have given false information to census employees, because they are fearful of how the information may be used,” the members of the Hispanic Caucus wrote.

In April, a group of 17 states (not including Florida), the District of Columbia and six U.S. cities filed a lawsuit challenging what they call an “unconstitutional and arbitrary” decision to include the question on the census.

A federal judge in New York ruled last month that the plaintiffs in the case had made a plausible charge that the decision by the Commerce Department to include the citizenship question was motivated in part by “discriminatory animus” and denied a request by the Trump administration to dismiss the suit.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross – who oversees the U.S. Census Bureau – originally said in March that the Commerce Dept. considered adding the citizenship question after the Department of Justice requested it, on the grounds that it would help the Justice Department better enforce the Voting Rights Act.

But the Huffington Post reports that in a June memo, Ross said that he had been considering adding the question and had discussed it with senior administration officials before the request to the Justice Department.

That seeming contradiction led to an angry letter penned to Ross by dozens of House Democrats in late June, questioning him about his remarks. That letter was signed by Florida Democrats Ted Deutch, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Frederica Wilson and Soto.

Mitch Perry
Mitch Perry has spent the past 18 years covering news and politics in the Sunshine State, most recently with FloridaPolitics.com. He worked for five years as the political editor of Creative Loafing in Tampa, and before that he was the assistant news director at WMNF radio, where he served as creator/anchor/producer of the hour-long WMNF Evening News. A San Francisco native, Mitch began his career at KPFA Radio in Berkeley in the 1990's.

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