People who might be afraid of the Census Bureau’s plans to ask about citizenship status in the 2020 count “don’t have to answer” that question, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Wednesday.
He said it will be the final question in the census and expressed surprise at the major outcry.
“It shouldn’t scare people. They don’t have to answer it, really,” he said. “I would think that’s a very reasonable thing, and I think concerns over it are overblown.”
The Commerce Department announced that it will restore the citizenship question to the next decennial census.
The question had been part of censuses through 1950. After that, it was placed on the “long form” sent to about one-sixth of Americans every 10 years. All others received the short form.
The long form was discontinued in 2010, but citizenship is still asked on the American Community Survey, a rolling census of a small fraction of Americans every year.
The Justice Department requested that the question be added back to the full census this year because the data would help the department police civil rights policy.
Immigrant rights groups, civil liberties advocates and Democrats have objected.
Some groups have even sued to block the question, arguing that it is an effort to chase people away from answering the census, which could skew the eventual count.
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