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Census 2020: Illinois Joins Suit to Block Citizenship Question

The public comment period closed this week for a controversial question proposed for the 2020 census.

Illinois is among a group of states and cities suing the federal government to block the question, which would ask whether the respondent is born in the U.S. or its territories, if they’re a naturalized citizen, or if they’re a non-citizen. Late last month, a federal judge let that suit go forward.

The Trump administration says the question shouldn’t be controversial. “This is a question that’s been included in every census since 1965 with the exception of 2010, when it was removed,” said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders at a March press briefing after the question was announced. “This question (has) provided data that’s necessary for the Department of Justice to protect voters, specifically to help us better comply with the Voting Rights Act.”

Opponents say the question targets immigrants and creates unnecessary barriers to getting an accurate census count.

“We must encourage every person in our country to participate, instead of putting up barriers to prevent people from being counted,” said Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan in a statement announcing she’d joined the suit to block the question. “I will take legal action to protect immigrant communities in Illinois and ensure they are represented fairly and accurately.”​

Joining Chicago Tonight for a conversation about the citizenship question and the importance of the census are Rocio Velazquez Kato, immigration policy analyst for the Latino Policy Forum; and state Rep. Mike Fortner, a Republican from West Chicago.

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