Homeland Security Sharing Citizenship Data for 2020 Census

WASHINGTON (CN) — The Department of Homeland Security has said it will share citizenship information with the U.S. Census Bureau following an order from President Donald Trump that is being challenged in federal court.

A worker passes out instructions on how fill out the 2020 census during a town hall meeting in Lithonia, Georgia. (AP photo/John Amis)

The order by Trump to collect data on citizenship and immigration status came after the Supreme Court in June unanimously rejected the addition of a citizenship question on the 2020 census form. Civil rights groups have challenged the executive order in court, saying the expected undercount that would occur of Latino and black voters is a deliberate tactic to assist Republicans in voter redistricting.

Despite ongoing legal battles, the Department of Homeland Security announced in a report out two weeks ago that it will share information with the Census Bureau to determine the number of citizens and noncitizens, including the number of immigrants present illegally.

The data sharing to determine the citizenship and immigration status of all persons will include Homeland Security handing over personally identifiable information.

“Immigration status and data are notoriously difficult to combine due to its dynamic nature – individuals can have multiple immigration statuses through their lifetime,” the report states. “DHS has endeavored to limit the amount of information sharing with census to promote the likelihood of linkages by census while limiting the amount of sensitive personally identifiable information disclosed from DHS systems of record.”

Robert Santos, a census expert and vice president of the D.C. think tank Urban Institute, said he is confident that the Census Bureau applies rigorous methods for masking information so individuals are not identifiable in the 2020 census report.

The bigger issue, Santos explained, is immigration enforcement agencies utilizing aggregate data to justify entering immigrant communities.

“Individuals will be filled with fear and decide not to participate … having DHS provide information to the Census Bureau screams there is an enforcement activity going on here,” Santos said.

The House Committee on Oversight and Reform — locked in a federal lawsuit in Washington over the Census Bureau’s failure to hand over documents related to the citizenship question — plans later this week to take up the issue of reaching minority communities in the 2020 census.

But Santos said countering the Trump administration’s efforts to gather citizenship information must be a focus of state and local government.

“There is only so much that a congressional committee can do given the past behaviors that have occurred with the administration regarding their compliance with things like congressional directives and so forth,” the census expert said.

Outreach to hard-to-count individuals and households, Santos added, should encourage 2020 census participation by communicating the risk of reduced funding and congressional representation for minority communities if inaccurately counted.

The U.S. Census Bureau and the Commerce Department did not respond to requests for comments. A senior Democratic aide to the House Oversight Committee said the majority has yet to receive the subpoenaed documents from the Census Bureau ahead of the hearing scheduled for Thursday.

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