WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is downplaying concerns about a possible low participation in the 2020 Census over the addition of a citizenship question for the first time in 70 years.
“61 million families have already been exposed to the question and the sky has not fallen,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Monday. “So I don’t think the sky will fall when we add it to the census itself in 2020.”
Some experts argued that the confidentiality of the Census will keep non-citizens responding, while others said a lack of government trust will depress response numbers.
The question has been asked every year in the American Community Survey, which is sent to fewer than 3 percent of U.S. households.
The Justice Department requested early this year that the Census Bureau reinstate a citizenship question to provide more detailed data that the department could use to more effectively enforce the Voting Rights Act.
Democrats are overwhelmingly opposed to including the citizenship question, saying it will depress the count in communities with large immigrant populations.
Ross said his office plans to spend $500 million in advertisement explaining the data cannot be used for immigration enforcement or purposes different than the compilation of census statistics.
Ross also said during a conference held at the National Press Club that the citizenship question will be the last in a questionnaire printed in both English and Spanish to make it easier to whoever feels uncomfortable answering it.
Ross mentioned that the Census Bureau will have instructional material available in 12 languages and a multilingual call center, and it is currently trying to get the cooperation of community organizations to explain to people why it is important to participate.
Ross said the Department of Homeland Security and various government agencies are helping the Census Bureau on the cyber security front in order to protect the data against intrusion.
“People do not need to worry that their privacy will be abused by the census,” he said.