On March 26, 2018, Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced that the decennial census would include an untested question on citizenship, ignoring the objections of career Census Bureau staff and community advocates across the country. In doing so, Secretary Ross capitulated to a late request from the Department of Justice (DOJ) to add the citizenship question to the upcoming 2020 census, citing it as required to fully protect section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. Former DOJ leadership has dismissed this claim as unwarranted.

Including the citizenship question—before it has undergone the years-long testing by the Census Bureau’s seasoned demographers typical of large changes to census surveys—marks a deep departure in the standards of statistical analysis performed by the Bureau under Republican and Democratic administrations alike. What’s more, current Census Bureau employees and advisors, former Census Bureau Directors, and countless community advocates have warned that the inclusion of a citizenship category would depress response rates, particularly in immigrant communities where some will refrain from filling out the questionnaire out of fear of their immigration status being revealed to law enforcement. The limited response rate caused by inclusion of the citizenship question could seriously compromise the accuracy of the decennial census.


On June 18, 2018, the Arab American Institute joined over 150 grassroots, advocacy, labor, legal services, and other organizations to submit an amicus brief in the litigation brought by the State of New York against the U.S. Department of Commerce challenging the inclusion of an untested and dangerous citizenship question in the 2020 Census.

The State of New York was joined by 17 states, Washington D.C., and nine cities, four counties, and the bipartisan U.S. Conference of Mayors in challenging the late addition of a citizenship question, which Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross agreed to add on March 26 in response to a December 2017 request of the Justice Department.


Amicus Brief (June 18, 2018)


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