The Trump administration on Friday announced that a request to add a controversial question on citizenship status to the 2020 Census is under legal review.
The question, requested by the Justice Department, is under review by lawyers at the Commerce Department, which oversees the Census Bureau. Attorneys are evaluating the legal basis for the question, the bureau said.
The Census Bureau faces a March 31 deadline to decide whether it will include the question on the 2020 Census.
The addition raised concerns that a citizenship question would cause undocumented individuals not to complete the questionnaire and potentially leave a large population uncounted.
The Justice Department told the Census Bureau it would use the data to enforce the Voting Rights Act, including “its important protections against racial discrimination in voting,” according to ProPublica, which first reported be request.
Latino advocacy groups strongly pushed back on the request, and several lawmakers have also asked Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to reject the request.
Opponents say the question would likely lead to lower Census completion by undocumented immigrants and could cause communities to be under-counted, with far reaching consequences for the next decade and beyond. Among the uses for Census data is determining where federal funds are spent and how congressional districts are drawn.
The Census is intended to count the entire population, not just US citizens.
The Census Bureau announced it has finalized another contested question topic: race and ethnicity. Census forms will include both a race question and a separate question on Hispanic heritage. It will not include a separate question about Middle Eastern heritage.