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Utahns concerned about citizenship question on 2020 census

Posted at 6:16 PM, Mar 27, 2018

SALT LAKE CITY – A big change is coming to the 2020 census and some Utahns are worried.

Every 10 years, we get a snapshot of America with new census numbers as required by the constitution. On the 2020 census, the Commerce Department is reinstating a question – Are you a U.S. citizen?

They say it will help determine possible violations of the Voting Rights Act.

The citizenship question has not been on the full census since the 1950’s but does appear on the yearly American Community Survey.

“It's discouraging that it's coming in at the last minute,” said Pamela S. Perlich, PhD, director of  Demographic Research at the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute.

Her team analyzes census numbers.

“It is the bedrock of determining political representation," Perlich said.

An inaccurate headcount could result in lower population numbers, which means less local and federal funding. According to the Pew Research Center, there are about 100,000 undocumented immigrants living in Utah. Perlich worries about the long-term implications.

“Adding this question will increase the difficulty in getting people to come forward and be counted. If we don`t stand up and be counted, there's a political price to pay there,” said Perlich.

Luis Garza, executive director of Comunidades Unidas says all communities should be alarmed.

“There's already enough anti-immigrant sentiment in the country," Garza said.

Garza helped the Latino community fill out their 2010 census.

“It was already difficult to get families to answer it in 2010. I cannot imagine how difficult it will be now," he said.

Garza fears many won’t take the survey – which is available online for the first time.

“I think the fear is what the government is going to do with that information,” said Garza. “First of all, what's the purpose of adding the question? How is that information going to be used? How is it going to be shared?”

California is suing the Trump administration over the question, saying it violates the U.S. Constitution and the New York attorney general could file a multistate lawsuit.