Citizenship question in census brings U.S. into line with worldwide practice

Yesterday, writing about the Commerce Department’s decision to ask about people’s citizenship in the 2020 census, I wrote: “Any country, especially one in which immigration is hotly debated, ought to have a good idea of how many citizens and how many non-citizens make up its population.” But do other countries ask about citizenship when they take a census?

The answer, apparently, is: yes. Hans von Spakovsky writes:

[E]ven the United Nations recommends that its member countries ask a citizenship question on their census surveys, and countries ranging from Australia to Germany to Indonesia all ask this question. Only in the U.S. is this considered at all controversial — and it shouldn’t be.

Throughout nearly all of our history, we too have asked about citizenship:

President Thomas Jefferson first proposed a citizenship question in 1800. It was added to the census in 1820 with a question that asked for the number of “foreigners not naturalized” in the household. . .[D]ecennial census surveys consistently asked citizenship questions up until 1950.

Nor, contrary to the impression the mainstream media has tried to convey, did 1950 mark the end of Census Department inquiries into citizenship:

When the census switched to sending out two different census forms, the short form and the long form, the long form (which went to one out of every six households) contained a citizenship question. The long form was discontinued after the 2000 census and replaced with the American Community Survey (ACS).

Even after that, the Census Bureau continued to ask a citizenship question in the ACS, but only of a small percentage of households. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra never complained and Eric Holder, as U.S. Attorney General, never tried to stop use of the citizenship question. If the question is unlawful, presumably they would have.

The addition of the question to the 2020 census is an attempt to get better data by asking universally a question other countries ask of everyone and that, for most of our history, we did too. The left, for opportunistic reasons, would prefer to hide the ball on the citizen/noncitizen population of our country. The Trump administration deserves credit for following in Thomas Jefferson’s footsteps by seeking an accurate picture of how many citizens and non-citizens make up our democratic republic.


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