For the first time in 70 years, the federal government says that it will ask people in the U.S. to provide their citizenship status when responding to a U.S. Census. The Census is an event that takes place every 10 years in the United States and is specifically mandated by the Constitution. (http://constitutionus.com/#a1s2c3) Every 10 years, the United States must count its population, primarily to determine the number of representatives in Congress but to serve other purposes as well. The information gathered in the Census can help decide voting districts and where to distribute government resources.
The Census has not asked respondents for their citizenship status since 1950. Secretary Wilbur Ross of the U.S. Department of Commerce recently announced that the U.S. Department of Justice, led by Secretary Jeff Sessions, has asked that the Census put this citizenship question back in. (https://www.commerce.gov/sites/commerce.gov/files/2018-03-26_2.pdf)
The reason from the Justice Department is to better enforce the Voting Rights Act. But many census experts and former census bureau directors are worried about negative consequences. NPR reported: “Already folks are very concerned about giving personal information to the federal government. . . . A lot of immigrants, not only those who are undocumented, but anyone who maybe has ties to folks who are undocumented, many not want to . . . participate in the census and therefore they would not be counted, and that has direct impacts on how people are represented in this country.” (https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/03/26/597192714/2020-census-will-ask-who-is-a-citizen) When people feel nervous to answer Census questions, the Census is less likely to give accurate numbers, which could lead to less accurate representation in Congress. Alternatively, since only U.S. Citizens are allowed to vote, why is this the cause for concern?
The attorney general of California is suing the federal government over the issue, claiming that the question is illegal. “The census numbers provide the backbone for planning how our communities can grow and thrive in the coming decade. . . . What the Trump Administration is requesting is not just alarming, it is an unconstitutional attempt to discourage an accurate census count.” (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/26/us/politics/census-citizenship-question-trump.html?smid=tw-nytpolitics&smtyp=cur).
Although this issue is indirectly related immigration law, we know that many of our clients and potential clients will be interested in this topic. As we do with all immigration news, we will keep a close watch on these developments, and attempt to keep you informed.
ABOUT THIS AUTHOR
J.J. Despain is an associate attorney in Salt Lake City for W&O’. He practices employment based and family-based immigration law. J.J. graduated from Brigham Young University, where he earned a bachelor of arts in communications with an emphasis in print journalism. He spent two years as an opinions editor, sports editor, and web editor for the campus newspaper, The Daily Universe. J.J. also earned minors in both Spanish and political science. After his undergraduate studies, J.J. attended law school at the University of Iowa College of Law. In Iowa, J.J. was the president of the student chapter of the J. Reuben Clark Law Society, a managing editor of the Iowa Law Review, a judicial clerk for the Honorable Stephanie M. Rose of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa, and was involved with the Latino Law Students Association and Sports Law Society.
Kelly O’Reilly is a founding partner with Wilner & O’Reilly, APLC, and a former Immigration Officer with Citizenship and Immigration Services in Los Angeles and Orange County. With over 18 years working as an immigration attorney, he is an expert in all facets of Immigration Law and one of the best immigration attorneys serving Orange County and Riverside County. A native of Fresno, California, Mr. O’Reilly received his law degree from the University of La Verne, College of Law and his Bachelor of Science degree from Brigham Young University. A former missionary in Hong Kong, Mr. O’Reilly has a great love of Chinese culture and is conversant in Cantonese.