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The Citizenship Question

Adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census would have significantly reduced participation. We fought to permanently block citizenship questions from the upcoming headcount — and won.

Overview

In March 2018, the Trump administration announced that it would direct the Census Bureau to include a question on the 2020 census form asking respondents whether or not they were U.S. citizens. The decision was made over the objections of former census directors, 161 Republican and Democratic mayors, 19 state attorneys general, more than 170 civil rights organizations, and prominent business leaders, among others. Census professionals agreed that a citizenship question would significantly reduce census participation, both by citizens and noncitizens. 

The courts agreed. After a year-long court battle, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the administration’s attempt to add the citizenship question.

The Brennan Center and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights participated at every step of the court challenges, from trial courts around the country to the Supreme Court. These efforts culminated with a friend-of-the-court brief for the Supreme Court joined by over 170 other civil society organizations. The center further supported the fight by publishing reports and analysis disproving the administration’s historical justification for the question and outlining the legal protections that prohibit the Census Bureau from using data against the people who supply it.