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2020 Census

counts the population, and the Trump administration tried to add a question about citizenship to it



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Why It Matters

  • The goal of the U.S. census is to collect an accurate count of all residents in the U.S. population every 10 years.

  • In March 2018, the Trump-Pence administration said it would add the following question to the 2020 Census: "Is this person a citizen of the United States?" Experts worried that doing so would scare many immigrants from responding.

  • The Supreme Court blocked the citizenship question from being added to the 2020 census for now.

Key Players

Donald Trump

President of the United States

Elected to Office: 11-8-2016
Mike Pence

Vice President of the United States

Elected to Office: 11-8-2016
William Barr

U.S. Attorney General (DOJ)

Nominated by Trump: 1-3-2019
Jeff Sessions

Former U.S. Attorney General (DOJ)

Resigned: 11-07-2018

How We Got Here & Where We're Headed


  • 2-24-2020
    Public charge rule goes into effect nationwide
  • 1-27-2020
    Supreme Court rules that the administration can use its new “public charge” standard while lawsuits against it go forward

  • 6-27-2019
    Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to block the citizenship question
  • 9-1-2019
    Supreme Court temporarily permits third-country rule, which denies most asylum claims at the Southern border
  • 8-21-2019
    Trump administration announced a final "family detention" rule that would allow the administration to detain children indefinitely
  • 8-12-2019
    Trump administration issues final “public charge” rule designed to stop immigrants from accessing public benefits to which they are legally entitled
  • 7-16-2019
    Rule issued that makes immigrants ineligible for U.S. asylum if they passed through Mexico — denying asylum to nearly all South American immigrants
View more +
  • 11-9-2018
    Trump announces a policy to severely
    restrict asylum for immigrants
  • 10-10-2018 
    Rule proposed to keep
    low-income immigrants from entering or staying in the U.S.
  • 9-7-2018
    family detention rule to let U.S. jail immigrant children indefinitely
  • 6-11-2018
    Jeff Sessions says immigrants fleeing
    domestic violence don’t qualify for asylum
  • 4-6-2018
    U.S. sharply increases
    separation of immigrant families at the border
  • 3-27-2018
    Administration says it plans to add a
    citizenship question to the 2020 Census
  • 12-18-2017
    Refugee office head says he
    interfered with undocumented women’s abortion access
  • 12-14-2017
    Administration starts detaining
    pregnant immigrants during legal proceedings
  • 10-10-2017
    ACLU sues ORR for blocking a detained undocumented woman’s
    access to abortion
  • 9-5-2017
    The administration announces it’s ending DACA




“The Trump administration is shamelessly weaponizing the census to wage its war on communities of color, immigrants and the poor.”

A Climate of Fear

The Trump-Pence administration’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies created a climate of fear among immigrants. So, asking about citizenship status on the census could have scared immigrant and mixed-status families from responding. These residents could have avoided participating just to stay under the radar.

The effect of not participating in the census: an undercount of immigrant communities — which could skew their political representation and cause them to lose out on federal funding, including for health care programs.  And that could harm immigrant communities for decades to come, experts say.

Background on the 2020 Census

Fairly Allocating Government Resources

Census data helps the government determine where to disperse federal tax dollars for Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Title X, and other vital health care programs.

Planned Parenthood Action Blog
Already Blocked From Key Government Programs

Federal law blocks undocumented immigrants from Medicaid and bans them from buying insurance on the ACA Marketplace. Direct barriers like these and fear of deportation for themselves and their loved ones can drive immigrants into the shadows.

Planned Parenthood Action
Glaring Lack of Testing, Evaluation

A slew of national and local groups condemned the administration’s attempt to add the citizenship question, noting how the government usually takes years to field test new census questions and evaluate their impact on the public before adding them.

Latino Rebels
Is The Census Mandatory?

Yes, U.S. law says that the government can fine people up to $5,000 for refusing to fill out the census or providing false information. That law hasn’t been enforced since 1970.

Seattle Times
Discrimination Motivation

The Commerce Department and Census Bureau faced six lawsuits from states, cities and groups that want the citizenship question off — including a suit that alleged the addition was motivated by discrimination and would result in less political power in places where many immigrants live. A January 2019 ruling that blocked the question said Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross exceeded his authority under federal law when he decided to add the question. The ruling indicated suspicion of the administration’s motivations, stating: "The court can… infer from the various ways in which Secretary Ross and his aides acted like people with something to hide that they did have something to hide."

USA Today
Americans to Administration: Drop the Question

During a public comment period that ended in early August 2018, many respondents called on the administration to drop its plans to add the question.

It’s Controversial — Not Standard

A citizenship question has not been on the U.S. census since 1950.


Related Issues

Separating Immigrant Families

Detention of Pregnant Immigrants

Public Benefits for Immigrants

Immigrant Access to Abortion

Legal Status for Dreamers


Pregnant Travelers

The Muslim Ban