Asian Americans May Lose Out in Trump Administration's Census

Published in NPR Takeaway on

Commerce Department says it will comply with a Trump administration request to include a citizenship question on the 2020 census, drawing immediate backlash.

On Monday night, the Commerce Department formally announced that it will comply with a Trump administration request to include a citizenship question on the 2020 decennial census.

The news sparked immediate criticism from state officials. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced plans to bring a multi-state suit, and by Tuesday afternoon, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra had filed a lawsuit over the decision. Attorney General Becerra addressed the lawsuit in a press conference on Tuesday.

"If we don't do an accurate census, when you're talking about a several percentage point or even a few percentage point differential between the actual count of people in the country and what the census reveals, could translate into several million people not being counted," said Becerra. "If those individuals are distributed in particular states, those states will lose out not just on representation, but on the resources are their taxpayers are contributing."

Advocacy groups also spoke out against the decision, citing intimidation as reason immigrant populations may fail to participate in the census. In Asian-American communities, individuals are already at risk of being undercounted due to language barriers, poverty, status, and housing stability. According to calculations from the 2010 census, one in five Asian Americans lives in census tracts that are considered “hard to count” for those reasons.

John C. Yang, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice, discusses why accurate census data is integral to how states operate and how communities are supported.

In response to a request for comment, a Commerce Department spokesperson told The Takeaway:

Secretary Ross carefully considered the argument that the reinstatement of the citizenship question on the decennial census would depress response rate. Because a lower response rate would lead to increased non-response follow up costs and less accurate responses, this factor was an important consideration in the decision-making process. Secretary Ross found that the need for accurate citizenship data and the limited burden that the reinstatement of the citizenship question would impose outweigh fears about a potentially lower response rate.