State Assemblyman Charles Lavine sent a letter last month to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross over concerns about a question on the 2020 census.
In the letter, Lavine, a Democrat from Glen Cove, urged the Commerce Department to remove a question that asks the respondent’s citizenship status.
“The 2020 Census is at serious risk of a substantial undercount, especially among hard-to-reach populations including immigrant communities living in this country,” Lavine wrote. “The addition of this question is a deliberate obstacle meant to undermine the 2020 census through instilling fear while deterring the honest reporting of immigrant data.”
Ross announced earlier this year that the citizenship question would be added to the 2020 census. According to a statement released by the Department of Commerce, the question was asked on every U.S. census between 1820 and 1950. The decision to bring back the citizenship question was done at the behest of the Department of Justice and the administration of President Donald Trump.
“Secretary Ross determined that obtaining complete and accurate information to meet this legitimate government purpose outweighed the limited potential adverse impacts,” the statement read.
In a statement following the release of the letter, Lavine said it was important to stand up for those forgotten by society and possibly by the U.S. census.
“It is our duty as elected officials to represent those who are historically underrepresented,” he said.
Lavine is hardly alone in calling for the question to be removed. According to a USA Today report, the agency has received 39,000 comments on the new question. Democrats in Congress have attempted to pass legislation to remove the question. Organizations like the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union have rallied against the citizenship question, which the latter group called “unconstitutional.”
“It’s a deliberate attempt by President Trump to once again attack immigrants,” the ACLU wrote on its website.
Lavine wrote that residents who are not U.S. citizens will avoid the census out of fear that their information could lead to them being jailed or deported. He wrote that the census was not for determining citizenship but for providing the most accurate depiction of the American population. The fewer people respond, the less accurate that information is.
“It is imperative to get the most accurate count because every community relies on Census data for things like public safety and transportation resources,” he wrote. “The public should not be asked to answer, or pay for, a Census that could possibly detract from a fair and accurate count.”
A spokeswoman for Lavine said that the assemblyman’s office has not yet received a reply from the Department of Commerce.
Reach reporter Luke Torrance by email at [email protected], by phone at 516-307-1045, ext. 214, or follow him on Twitter @LukeATorrance.