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NASW opposes citizenship question on 2020 Census

illustrated map of the continental United StatesWASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Department of Commerce, which manages the Census Bureau, announced the 2020 Census will include a question that asks the respondent whether they are a U.S. Citizen. This action by the Secretary of Commerce was fully supported by the White House.

Including citizenship as one of the questions on the 2020 Census questionnaire is extremely worrisome. Specifically, adding this question has major implications for immigrant communities and for the integrity of fair allocation of Congressional representation. The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) strongly disagrees with the proposed addition of the citizenship question to the 2020 Census.

The Commerce Department’s actions came as a surprise to many mainstream political and civic leaders. There is bipartisan opposition to adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. This includes 60 members of Congress; 161 Democratic and Republican mayors; six former Census directors who served in Republican and Democratic administrations; 19 attorneys general; the statistical community; and several dozen business leaders from across the country.

We all rely on accurate census data. Local community leaders use this data to make decisions about allocating resources for community needs like education, assistance for veterans, hospitals, and transportation. Additionally, the final census tally is of enormous importance to the allocation of Congressional representation and the distribution of federal funds to the states.

Adding a citizenship question will have a chilling effect on the participation of immigrant families and individuals. Even those who have legal status but are not full citizens will be reluctant to participate in the 2020 Census. The result of non-participation will be major undercounts that distort the actual total population of the United States. It is important to remember that conducting a national census is a constitutional mandate. More importantly, the constitution dictates that the federal government must count the total population of the country. This includes counting citizens and non-citizens.

NASW will join forces with business leaders, elected officials of all parties, our coalition of more than 200 organizations, as well as grassroots and civic activists, to work on reversing this unfortunate decision.

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW), in Washington, DC, is the largest membership organization of professional social workers. It promotes, develops, and protects the practice of social work and social workers. NASW also seeks to enhance the well-being of individuals, families, and communities through its advocacy.