Politics & Government

Did you get a ‘Census Test’ in the mail? It might ask if you’re a citizen. Here’s why

What you need to know about the 2020 Census

The next U.S. census is on April 1, 2020. This year's census is particularly controversial because of one question: 'are you a U.S. citizen?'
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The next U.S. census is on April 1, 2020. This year's census is particularly controversial because of one question: 'are you a U.S. citizen?'

The Supreme Court denied the Trump administration’s request to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, but some Idaho residents might still get letters asking for that information.

The Census Bureau announced June 11 it would begin testing the operational effects of the citizenship question on 480,000 households across the country. A few weeks later, the Supreme Court temporarily barred the addition of the question to the 2020 Census.

“The 2019 Census Test will randomly assign households to two panels and ask them to respond to the 2020 Census questions,” the U.S. Census Bureau announced in an online release. “Panel A will include the question on citizenship, Panel B will not.”

People that receive the test can respond online, through the mailed paper questionnaire or by phone. Households that do not complete the survey may receive a follow-up visit from a census taker, according to the U.S. Census Bureau website.

On Wednesday, the Idaho Statesman reviewed a form sent to a Boise resident this month. It did not include the citizenship question.

Households in other areas of the country have also begun receiving the 2019 Census Test. Residents in California’s Bay Area received test questionnaires with the citizenship question, according to the Mercury News.

With the question barred on the 2020 Census, it’s unclear what the Census Bureau will do with any citizenship data it collects during the 2019 Census Test. It’s also unclear if the responses will be used to gauge the effect of the citizenship question on a future decennial census.

The Census Bureau did not respond to Idaho Statesman’s request for comment.

How many noncitizens does Idaho have?

Analysts predicted the addition of a citizenship question on the 2020 Census could have cost Idaho $13 million in federal funds. Census figures show 3.7 percent of Idaho residents were noncitizens between 2013 and 2017, much lower than the national average.

Idaho was also one of the fastest growing states in the country the last two years. Hispanics accounted for more than a quarter of Idaho’s growth in the last decade, according to the McClure Center for Public Policy Research’s analysis of Census Bureau data.

Almost 25,000 noncitizens live in Ada and Canyon counties. Higher percentages of noncitizens live in sparsely populated counties in East Idaho and the Magic Valley. More than 21 percent of Clark County residents are noncitizens, while at least 10 percent of the populations of Jerome, Lincoln and Minidoka counties are not citizens.

Under Title 13 of the U.S. Code, the Census Bureau is required to keep respondent information confidential, and answers cannot be used against respondents in court or by government agencies such as immigration officials.

The Census Bureau will, however, publish data showing how many noncitizens live in each neighborhood. Some noncitizens are unauthorized immigrants. Others are here legally as permanent residents with Green Cards, or with temporary work visas, or under other protected legal status.

If you received a 2019 Census Test asking about your citizenship status, please email nfoy@idahostatesman.com or call 208-377-6347.

Investigative reporter Nicole Foy covers Latinos, agriculture and government accountability issues. She graduated from Biola University and previously worked for the Idaho Press and the Orange County Register. Her Hispanic affairs beat reporting won first place in the 2018 Associated Press regional awards. Ella habla español.
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