SPLC, Florida civil rights organizations ask lawmakers to oppose harmful citizenship question on 2020 Census

The SPLC and a broad coalition of Florida civil rights organizations sent a letter this week to the state’s congressional delegation, expressing alarm at the inclusion of a citizenship question on the 2020 U.S. Census.

The inclusion of a citizenship question, which has never appeared on the decennial Census form sent to every U.S. household since 1950, jeopardizes the accuracy of the constitutionally mandated count of all people in the country. That’s because many people are concerned about the confidentiality of information provided to the government, and how government authorities may use that information.

An inaccurate accounting of people living in the U.S. would impact funding levels over the next decade for several Census-guided federal programs, such as special education grants, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Medicaid and infrastructure programs such as building roads, among others.

“There is no reason to include a citizenship question on the Census other than to fan the flames of fear, and knowingly depress immigrant representation in this country to impact corresponding federal resources,” said Shalini Goel Agarwal, managing attorney for the SPLC, which is among the organizations that signed the letter. “We cannot ensure an accurate Census when the process is designed to turn away respondents and discourage participation.”

According to the letter, the inclusion of the citizenship question is exacerbating a climate of fear. The question will force more and more people in our country into the shadows, the letter says, and will drive down the recorded numbers of different groups living in America, perpetuating a cycle of disenfranchisement and underrepresentation for the most vulnerable.

The effort to remove the citizenship question has received bipartisan and overwhelming support from elected officials, business leaders and former Census directors.

Earlier this week, letters were sent to each of Florida’s 27 representatives and both senators. The letters were signed by the SPLC and nine other organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union Florida (ACLU FL), Common Cause Florida, Faith in Public Life, Latino Justice, Mi Familia Vota Education Fund, National Council of Jewish Women-Florida, The New Florida Majority Education Fund, Organize Florida Education Fund, and South Florida LCLAA (Labor Council for Latin American Advancement).