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NC is Counting on Accurate 2020 Census

With North Carolina's growing immigrant population, advocates say adding a citizenship question will result in an inaccurate count of the people in the state. (Andrea Donato Alemanno/flickr.com)
With North Carolina's growing immigrant population, advocates say adding a citizenship question will result in an inaccurate count of the people in the state. (Andrea Donato Alemanno/flickr.com)
April 4, 2018

RALEIGH, N.C. - Adding a question about citizenship to the 2020 U.S. Census may sound innocuous, but immigrant advocates say it will have a far-reaching impact on all people in the country.

The Trump administration is proposing adding the question, but people such as Dani Moore, director of the Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project at the North Carolina Justice Center, said it may discourage an untold number of people from answering honesty, for fear of how the information will be used.

"Politicizing the Census is not a good idea," she said. "What all communities need instead is an accurate count. An accurate count is very important for businesses, for policy makers, for people who are in local governments to make good decisions."

The U.S. Justice Department has said it needs the citizenship question on the Census so it can get an accurate count of eligible voters to enforce the Voting Rights Act. Immigrant and civil-rights groups are expected to challenge the proposed change in court. With North Carolina's growing immigrant population, Moore said, the question could impact things such as federal funding for the state's schools and other public services.

In the past, the Census has used smaller survey samples to get an idea of the country's immigrant population, and Moore is concerned it will have a disproportionate impact on low-income communities.

"Adding the citizenship question to all respondents is unnecessarily intrusive and it does raise concerns in all households," she said. "Whether people are born in the U.S. or foreign-born, whether they're citizens or non-citizens, it does raise questions about the confidentiality of their personal information and how government authorities may use it. "

Census data is used to calculate the number of representatives each state gets in Congress, the number of votes each state gets in the Electoral College and funding for local governments in programs such as Medicaid, Head Start and the National School Lunch Program.

The NC Justice Center brief is online at ncjustice.org.

Stephanie Carson/Veronica Carter, Public News Service - NC