Proposed Citizenship Question Causes Concern for 2020 Census

Officials say an accurate count is essential for federal grant allocation

FARGO, N.D. — A proposed addition to the 2020 census is causing concern for the accuracy of data on people in the country.

A possible question on citizenship has opponents worried certain populations will be discouraged from answering in fear of potential consequences.

The Trump administration argues that the citizenship question is essential for enforcing the Voting Rights Act.

“I can’t think of any good coming out of this. Mostly because this administration does not reassure me,” said Laetitia Mizero Hellerund, an inclusion advocate and consultant.

“The goal of the census is to capture the number of individuals who are in the community. If there’s a reason they would be fearful of completing the information, that would be an issue,” said Shirley Dykshoorn of Lutheran Social Services.

Getting an accurate count is vital when it comes to political districting and how much federal money is given to certain places.

“When Fargo gets state aid, it’s dependent on the census count, so the more accurate we have that census count, the better it is for us, then we get more money,” Mayor Tim Mahoney said.

Some people say the citizenship question would widen the gap between ‘us’ versus ‘them.’

“The refugee immigrant already feels they don’t belong to that place. By adding to this, asking if you are a citizen, is putting the knife in the wound and pushing and pushing,” said Mytch Dorvilier, a pastor with the Eastern North Dakota Synod.

So far, at least a dozen states plan to sue the administration over the proposed question, arguing that it would cause fewer Americans to be counted and violate the Constitution.

“There’s sometimes state–federal fights. All we’re trying to say is please don’t do anything that prohibits us from getting the proper census,” Mahoney said.

State and national redistricting will take place in 2021.

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