Oct 14, 2019 - Politics & Policy

Census Bureau requests citizenship information from states

A man walking out of Driver License Division in Utah.

Photo: George Frey/Getty Images

The U.S. Census Bureau is requesting information from drivers' license records and public assistance recipients in an effort to make documenting citizenship a key aspect of the 2020 Census, the Associated Press reports.

Why it matters: The request has alarmed civil rights advocates who believe it will discourage immigrant participation in next year's population count, which will be used to determine congressional seat apportionment and how federal funding is distributed.

The big picture: The Trump administration controversially sought to include a citizenship question in the 2020 Census, but the Supreme Court blocked the question earlier this year — arguing the administration lacked a credible explanation for why the question was necessary.

  • In response to the Supreme Court ruling, Trump issued an executive order allowing the Commerce Department to request administrative records from "all executive departments and agencies" to help it compile citizenship data.

What they're saying: The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators told AP that most states received requests for information containing citizenship status, race, birthdates and addresses, but that states can choose for themselves how to respond.

  • Experts said that state records are a poor choice for tracking citizenship because they may contain inaccuracies.
  • The Census Bureau said the records it receives are stripped of identifiable information and are only used for statistical purposes.

Illinois' secretary of state has denied the request, according to AP. Florida's Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles has received the request but has not yet responded.

Our thought bubble, per Axios' Stef Kight: Trump's administration has made multiple attempts to penalize immigrants who use or are likely to use certain public benefit programs. The actions may not have a direct impact on most immigrants in the U.S., but the fear and uncertainty the policies create could keep immigrants from benefits they qualify for or result in an undercount of Latino populations in the 2020 Census.

What's next: The bureau said it will decide on a methodology for tracking citizenship by by March 31, 2020. The Census count officially begins on the next day, April 1.

Go deeper: Judge blocks Trump plan to penalize immigrants likely to use public benefits

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