National WIC Association

NWA Opposes Potential Question About Citizenship in 2020 Census

August 10, 2018

When it comes to the Census, everybody counts. But when it comes to the Trump Administration’s plans to ask everybody about their citizenship status, NWA says that doing so would alienate many immigrants and have a negative effect on the very goal of the census, which is to count every resident living in the United States.

The Census occurs every ten years and is conducted by the US Census Bureau, a division of the US Department of Commerce. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is considering adding the question to census forms and has sought public input. Numerous civil rights and public health organizations have weighed in, highlighting that a citizenship question could lead to an undercounting and inaccurate Census data.

NWA gave input during the public comment period on the proposed inclusion of a citizenship question in the 2020 Census. NWA’s comments, submitted August 7, lay out the reasons it believes the question should not to be included.

NWA emphasized in its comments the value of accurate counting of all individuals living in the United States for both WIC program administration and research purposes. However, with a rise in hostile rhetoric and the administration’s commitment to increased immigration enforcement, NWA said that non-citizen families could be scared away from participating in the Census and thus not be counted. This could impact the distribution of WIC funds to state agencies, as states with a high concentration of immigrants may be undercounted.

Overall, NWA argued in its comments that “federal programs like WIC rely on the Department to conduct a neutral and fair counting that strives for accuracy, not alienation. The politicization of the Census by weaving in partisan questions about citizenship status threatens a significant undercounting of non-citizen populations and residents going through the process of obtaining legal status or citizenship. As a result, certain states will face diminished resources for domestic programs – including the child and maternal health and nutrition services provided through WIC. States should not have to serve more people with fewer resources as a result of the Administration’s senseless and ceaseless efforts to undermine non-citizen communities.”

The Commerce Department will now weigh the public’s comments and come to a final decision on including a citizenship question. NWA will continue to inform its members as the Commerce Department reaches a decision.