Virtually Every National Latino Organization Is Condemning Decision to Ask for Citizenship in 2020 Census

Mar 27, 2018
2:29 PM

As if you would be surprised, but the reaction to Monday night’s Department of Commerce news that the U.S. Census would be asking a citizenship question in 2020 has led to a slew of Latino organizations condemning the move.

Here are just some of the reactions:

National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (coalition of 45 Latino organizations)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, a coalition of 45 of the nation’s preeminent Latino advocacy organizations, condemns the decision of the Trump administration to add a question on citizenship to the 2020 Census. The addition of this question in the current political climate will cause confusion and fear, creating barriers to achieving an accurate census count, which is critical for our democracy, economy, and governments’ ability to plan and implement programs efficiently.

New census questions typically undergo years of review and field testing before being added to the decennial survey of the entire population so that the Census Bureau has a sense of how people will respond to the question and whether the data collected will be reliable. In contrast, the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census was first recommended by the U.S. Department of Justice less than three months ago. Its inclusion, with limited opportunity for public comment and no field testing, suggests that the administration’s decision is based on politics rather than objective needs.

“The Trump administration’s addition of a citizenship question is pure politics. Their aim is to drive down the number of Latinos participating in the census, so that our communities are deprived of the political representation and federal resources we deserve,” said Hector Sanchez Barba, Chair of NHLA and Executive Director of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement. “An accurate census is too important for our democracy to let the Trump administration get away with this. We call on Congress to reverse the Trump administration’s decision and we will support any legal avenues to block it.”

“The Department of Commerce decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census is an affront to the federal government’s constitutional duty to carry out a complete count of the entire U.S. population. It undermines the work of the Census Bureau, needlessly wastes millions of taxpayer dollars because it is unnecessary and untested, and is clearly intended to depress the response rates by Latinos.  NALEO will join hundreds of others who believe in a just democracy to fight this decision and ensure a fair and accurate Census,” said Arturo Vargas, Co-Chair of NHLA’s Census Working Group and Executive Director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund.

“The Census needs to reflect the growth of our population so that we can make the changes that we need in our communities. The President cannot demonize immigrants, threaten them with deportations and family separation, and then expect them to trust the government with sensitive information. This question is being added to ignore our presence, but you cannot ignore our contributions. Our best response will be to elect officials who represent our values- we will make sure that our presence is felt come the elections,” stated Ben Monterroso, NHLA Board Member and Executive Director of Mi Familia Vota.

“As it stands, the census asks a person’s place of birth, country of origin, and when they came to the U.S. Including citizenship status seeks to undermine its purpose: to count every person within our borders to accurately disperse federal funding and assign congressional representation. Approximately 16.6 million Americans live in mixed status families who pay taxes. Adding the citizenship question to the federal form seeks to intimidate our population who fear retaliation from an already hostile administration. It is lamentable that the administration seeks to hijack the integrity of the census in pursuit of its perverse nativist, ideological agenda hoping to bully the second largest group of Americans from accurate representation. In doing so, it is gambling with our country’s future ability to properly resource schools, hospitals, and infrastructure for decades to come. Every American should be concerned,” said Maria Teresa Kumar, NHLA Board Member and President & CEO of Voto Latino.


Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel of MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund):

Over the years, presidential administrations of both parties have administered the Census scientifically and moderately, refusing to politicize a sacred constitutional mandate that goes back to our nation’s beginning.

Yesterday, the Trump administration ended that tradition, opting to politicize the decennial enumeration of all persons by precipitously adding an unnecessary citizenship question in the clear hope of reducing the count of Latinos, the nation’s largest minority group.

In response, MALDEF calls for the immediate resignation of Wilbur Ross. His acquiescence in this political maneuver demonstrates his thorough incompetence to serve as Commerce Secretary. His apparent lack of even basic integrity has created a constitutional violation of unprecedented potential impact.

Second, MALDEF calls upon every member of Congress to take immediate and effective action to prevent this politicization of the Census and of the constitutional obligation to perform an ‘actual enumeration’ of all persons living in the United States.

Third, MALDEF will take the necessary legal steps to prevent this pernicious decision from taking effect for the 2020 Census.  Some have already filed lawsuits, and MALDEF will join appropriately in challenging this administration’s latest, very serious constitutional depredation.

Finally, however, we note that this attack on the Latino community will most assuredly backfire.  The Latino community WILL be counted, at the Census and at the polls. Our community’s defiance of Donald Trump’s consistent attempts to whitewash Latinos out of our country’s governance and civic sector will be strong and vibrant.


Washington, D.C. – The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund today released a statement from Executive Director Arturo Vargas following the U.S. Department of Commerce’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census:

“In yet another assault on immigrants, Latinos and the 2020 Census, the U.S. Department of Commerce and Trump Administration today chose to put politics above the interests of the American people.  By deciding to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census at the 11th hour, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has further undermined the integrity of one of the most preeminent scientific agencies in the world, further jeopardizing the accuracy of the 2020 Census and wasting millions of taxpayer dollars in the process.

“The addition of any question at this moment in time would have catastrophic consequences for Latinos and all Americans.  As a member of the U.S. Census Bureau’s National Advisory Committee on National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic and Other Populations, I have seen firsthand the careful and costly research and testing that the Bureau undertakes over a period of many years to develop the questions used for the decennial count.  Preparations for this upcoming 2020 Census have been underway since 2008, with the Bureau’s final test taking place now in Providence County (R.I.).

“Set to validate the Bureau’s readiness for the operations, procedures, systems, and field infrastructure for the once in a decade census that will take place in less than two years, the final testing in Providence is not utilizing questionnaire forms that include a question on citizenship.  This means that the addition of this topic to the 2020 Census, if successful, would be implemented blindly without any scientific evaluation of what kind of impact it would have on public response rates or the follow up needed for those who may not answer the questionnaire.

“As I expressed to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross personally in a phone conversation days ago, the addition of any question at this point would be costly and disastrous.  Field representatives conducting surveys and other experiments are already reporting widespread and unprecedented fear among test respondents.  Adding a question on citizenship at this time would only seek to fan the flames of fear and distrust in the Census, further risking depressed response rates.

“There are no second chances with the census.  Estimates from the Census Bureau show that every one percent decrease in the self-response rate will increase the cost of the census by $55 million.

“Opposition to an untested and last-minute addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census has been swift and widespread.  The American Sociological Association, six former Census Bureau Directors from both Republican and Democratic administrations, more than 161 Mayors, 19 State Attorney Generals, and numerous leaders in the business community have all come all publicly against this effort.

“While we had hoped for the best, NALEO Educational Fund has been preparing for the worst, knowing that it would be up to organizations like us who believe in our democracy to fight back should this untimely, unnecessary and unwise decision come to fruition.  In the coming days, weeks, and months, we will stand alongside partners and colleagues from across the country as the battle to reverse this costly course of action heats up in both Congress and the courts.

“The stakes are too high for a failed 2020 Census, and we will not sit idly by as those with malice intentions seek to thwart a fair and accurate count of immigrants, Latinos and all Americans.  The fight has just begun, and we will not stop until we have exhausted all avenues to provide the Census Bureau with the fix and certainty it needs to tackle its most ambitious task yet, counting the largest American population in history.”
In case you missed it, here is what the Department of Commerce announced Monday night:

That announcement also led to a Tuesday lawsuit from California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who said the following in a media release: “An accurate census count sets in motion the services and benefits that shape the future of every Californian. The census constitutes the backbone for planning how and where our communities will invest taxpayer dollars. California simply has too much to lose to allow the Trump Administration to botch this important decennial obligation. What the Trump Administration is requesting is not just alarming, it is an unconstitutional attempt to disrupt an accurate Census count.”