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Politics

Citizenship Data Is Latest Rollback of Trump Census Efforts

January 24, 2021

The U.S. Census Bureau is suspending efforts to create neighborhood-level statistics on the citizenship and age of residents, using 2020 census data, in the latest rollback of Trump administration census-related initiatives that critics feared would be used to favor Republicans and whites during the drawing of state and local districts.

As part of an order President Joe Biden signed Wednesday on the 2020 census, the Census Bureau said Friday that it would discontinue efforts to create citizenship tabulations at the city-block level using 2020 census data combined with administrative records. 

Among his first acts as president, Biden's order revoked two Trump directives related to the 2020 census. The first attempted to discern the citizenship status of every U.S. resident through administrative records, and the second sought to exclude people in the U.S. illegally from the numbers used for apportioning congressional seats among the states.

Trump's commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, had ordered the production of the block-level citizenship data in 2018. 

After Wednesday's order by Biden, the Census Bureau said none of the data from the 2020 census would include information on citizenship or immigration status, at any geographic level.

Citizen Voting Age by Race and Ethnicity (CVAP) data were created almost two decades ago to help assess whether minority communities were getting equal opportunities to elect candidates of their choice. The data currently comes from American Community Survey estimates. 

But in the mid-2010s, an influential GOP adviser noted in a report that using adult-age citizen figures as the basis for redrawing state and local districts, instead of the total population, would be advantageous to Republicans and non-Hispanic whites. 

The Trump administration made several attempts to gather citizenship data through the 2020 census, including adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census questionnaire, which was blocked by the Supreme Court in 2019.

The efforts at gathering the citizenship data were challenged by civil rights groups in federal court in Maryland. A spokeswoman for one of the plaintiffs, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said the group needed to assess where the Census Bureau was in the process before dismissing the Maryland lawsuit. 

Jeffrey Wice, a Democratic redistricting expert, hailed the revocations of the Trump administration's census directives.

"This is a major step towards an honest and fair redistricting process, helping ensure that everyone is represented in new districts," Wice said.

But Adam Kincaid, a leader of Republican redistricting efforts, said in a statement that the Biden administration was merely "concealing critical information" about the citizen population in the U.S.

"For an administration that claims to be guided by facts, it is concerning that they are so selective of which facts they release," Kincaid said.

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