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Although the Census Bureau expressed fears that the new question would discourage noncitizens from taking part in the census, “no empirical data existed” to justify those concerns, which were outweighed by “the need for accurate citizenship data,” Ross said. The information is “necessary for the Department of Justice to protect voters,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters. She also asserted that a citizenship question had been “included in every census since 1965, with the exception of 2010 when it was removed.” In fact, the question was removed after the 1950 census, and transferred to a “long-form” questionnaire sent to 1 in 6 households each decade. In 2000 it was moved again to the American Community Survey, sent annually to about 3 million households. The Census Bureau normally tests proposed new questions three years ahead of the decennial to determine their impact. A trial run of the next census in Rhode Island last year, however, did not include a citizenship question. As a result, the proposed 2020 addition would “be implemented blindly without any scientific evaluation,” said Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Education Fund. Vargas, also a member of the Census Bureau’s advisory committee that heard Meyers’ report in November, said surveys are already reporting “widespread and unprecedented fear” of census-takers. He said he contacted Ross by phone recently and told the commerce secretary the addition of any new question would be “costly and disastrous.” While surveyors promise household members that their information will be kept strictly confidential, Holly Cooper, co-director of the Immigration Law Clinic at UC Davis, said many immigrants would refuse to participate, out of “fear it will be used as a registry” for arrests and deportations. The likely political impact would fall on states with majorities of Democrats, whose leaders denounced the plan. “Given President Trump’s toxic rhetoric and aggressive policies toward immigrants, it’s clear his administration wants to include this question to discourage participation in immigrant communities,” said Sen.
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