President Trump directs government agencies to provide all citizenship information


AUSTIN (Nexstar) — President Donald Trump announced an executive order this afternoon directing every federal government agency to provide all data it has on citizenship numbers to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

In late June, the U.S. Supreme Court released an opinion blocking President Trump’s administration from adding the question onto the 2020 Census for now. It was a 5-4 decision.

“Today, I’m saying we are not backing down on our effort to determine the citizenship status of the U.S. population,” Trump said during a press conference.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 30 states have executive orders or actions for statewide complete count commission or committee. Texas is currently not one of them. Complete count committees aim to get communities, civic organizations, individuals and other groups to support the census.  

Experts from progressive think tank The Center for Public Policy Priorities say an undercount of Texas’ population by even one percent could lead to a $300 million loss in federal funding for the state over the next decade. According to a study by George Washington University, Texas receives $59 billion annually in federal funds from census data every 10 years. 

Governor Greg Abbott hasn’t established a statewide complete count committee. Former Governors George W. Bush and William Clements issued executive orders by establishing complete count committees or directed agencies like the Secretary of State’s office to promote Census outreach. Former Governor Rick Perry did not. A spokesperson for the Texas Secretary of State’s office issued a written statement saying it “remains committed to working with the U.S. Census Bureau and other Texas state agencies to ensure a complete count for the state of Texas during the 2020 Census.”

Ann Beeson, chief executive officer of The Center for Public Priorities, says local complete count committees are trying to ensure accurate counts.

“That’s a positive sign,” she said. “They are underresourced so far. They need more money and support.”

The Texas Legislature didn’t set aside funding for outreach efforts related to the 2020 Census, either. She added that while the citizenship question debate led to concerns of an undercount among immigrant families, there are other populations at risk of an inaccurate count as well – very young children, people living in rural communities and families that move around a lot.

“The hope is that, in a volunteer way, many of the rest of us that are involved can plug that gap and we will do the best we can, but in the meantime, I think every single person who cares about Texas getting the representation and the resources that we deserve needs to get involved.”

She issued a statement late Thursday saying Trump’s directives for federal agencies to provide citizenship data will still “perpetuate fear among immigrant communities and will not lead to sound public policy.”

The 2020 Census will be the first to be completed primarily online. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, 80 percent of households will receive an invitation to send in responses online. The Census Bureau has said for 20 percent of the addresses in communities with low internet connectivity and older populations, it will include a paper questionnaire in the first mail package.

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