Darren Soto, Hispanic Caucus criticize Census citizenship question

June 4, 2018
In The News

U.S. Rep. Darren Soto and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus are again stressing their concerns about the controversial plans to ask for citizenship status for the 2020 Census.

The Caucus, for which Soto, D-Kissimmee, is the Civil Rights Task Force Chair Representative, sent a letter Friday to Secretary of Commerce Wilber Ross outlining the problems they saw with proposed changes to the decennial census.

Asking about citizenship, they argued, could scare residents from answering and undercount populations in important areas, which could impact how congressional districts are drawn and how federal funds are distributed.

“The census questionnaire is vital to ensure accurate representation and allocation of resources in our communities for the next decade,” the members wrote.

The members also point out Ross told a House committee that the citizenship question will lower response rates.

“If this is the case, why would the Department proceed to include a citizenship question in the 2020 Census?” the letter asks. “Additionally, since the Department of Commerce did not independently evaluate the benefit … [and] cannot fairly assess the costs, then how can the agency say prospective benefits outweighed the prospective cost of adding the question?”

The letter also asks why the Department of Justice didn’t have a need for more citizenship data in 2016 but then changed its mind in 2017

“What urgent reasons arose between 2016 and 2017 that necessitated this last-minute change?”

The members ask Ross about his plans to spend $500 million in advertising to reassure census participants their data can’t be used for immigration purposes. “Where and when will the Department roll out this advertising campaign?”

Ross told the National Press Club this month the question will allow officials to enforce voting laws more accurately, according to Politico.

“We’re also putting the citizenship question last so that someone who, for whatever reason, feels uncomfortable with that question, at least they can deal easily with the questions with which they are not uncomfortable,” Ross said.

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