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2020 census may include U.S. citizenship question

Immigration Services

U.S. citizenship is sought after by many immigrants in Kentucky and across the nation. However, the naturalization process can be a lengthy one, meaning that those with Green Cards will reside lawfully in our nation as U.S. permanent residents, but will not be considered U.S. citizens until naturalization is achieved. Still, it is important to have a clear picture of how many people reside in each state and whether they are U.S. citizens. Therefore every 10 years, the United States government conducts a census.

The results of a census are extremely important. How many members of the House of Representatives are allotted to each state, how many Electoral College votes each state is entitled to and how much a state gets in federal funds is dependent on each state's population. However, the current administration has announced that there will be a change in this upcoming census: the census will ask whether a person is a U.S. citizen.

The rationale given for this change is that, by having a clearer picture of how many people in the nation are of voting age, the government will be better able to enforce the Voting Rights Act. However, some experts fear that immigrants who do not yet have U.S. permanent residency may be afraid to answer a citizenship question and thus will fail to fill out and return their census form. This could lead to an inaccurate picture of how many people live in a particular state, like Kentucky. For states with significant immigrant populations, this could cause them to lose seats in the House of Representatives, lose Electoral College votes and lose federal funding for important programs, including Medicaid.

At least one state is already challenging this change to the census in court. However, anything that has a chilling effect on obtaining an accurate picture of each state's population can affect both immigrants and non-immigrants alike. Many people reside in the U.S. lawfully on various visas, but are still in the process of naturalization. Of course, before they can become a U.S. citizen, they must have a Green Card indicating they have U.S. permanent residency. When a person has a Green Card, they are officially considered immigrants in the U.S., and are therefore granted certain rights and responsibilities. In the end, it is important that our nation's immigrants are able to pursue naturalization without fear. Obtaining a Green Card is just one step on the path toward citizenship.

Source: CNN, "Why putting a citizenship question on the census is a big deal," Catherine E. Shoichet, March 28, 2018

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