Faith Groups Furious Over Trump’s Citizen Test

New Census Question Has Religious Groups Up In Arms

A recent change in the 2020 Census has led faith groups from all over the United States to condemn the new policy. The criticism stems from a change to the Census’ line of questioning regarding the members of the household. Specifically, the new question will ask which members of the resident’s family are U.S. citizens. 

A Not-So-Subtle Change

Members of the U.S. government who pushed for the change to the Census questionnaire have stated that the question will lead to a more accurate view of the citizens who are living in the country. Additionally, the Trump administration says it is merely reinstating a question that was present before the 2010 Census, even though it was not mandatory since the 1950s. Several justifications have been provided for the inclusion of the question including the support of the Voting Rights Act and the ability to have proper government representation, many faith groups can see how the information could be abused. 

A Potential For Harm

Christian groups such as The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, led by Tony Suarez, have stated there is a true potential for harm in putting the citizenship question on the census. One way the question can hurt is by forcing non-citizens to reveal themselves to the government without adequate immigrant reforms in place. This could make some households refuse to answer the question honestly out of fear of mass deportations or some other form of oppression in the years to come. 

Another faith group, the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, believes that the inclusion of the question could have significant impacts on the government representation in areas with high immigrant populations. Essentially, the immigrants who are too afraid to respond to the question will not fill out that part of the census, shrinking the overall numbers of individuals from areas like Central and South America. As a result, these places will not receive an adequate level of representation in their local and state government. 

A Call To Action

Whether the census question is being implemented to intentionally harm immigrant populations or to aid government allocation of resources is open to interpretation. Yet, it is the possibility of abuse that has led to such a public outcry from faith groups. Religious groups are worried about fostering fairness and promoting opportunity in an environment that suppresses the needs of minorities and will continue to add their voices to others who want the question removed from the census. As it stands, a dozen states plan to sue the administration over the inclusion of the question in an attempt to maintain their vision of the census’ integrity. 

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