GC submits comments to the Department of Commerce on Proposed Information Collection on 2020 Census
The 2020 census should not include a question on citizenship
Ms. Jennifer Jessup
Departmental Paperwork Clearance Officer
Department of Commerce, Room 6616
14th and Constitution Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20230
RE: Comments on Proposed Information Collection on 2020 Census, Docket No. USBC-2018–0005
Dear Ms. Jessup,
Generation Citizen (GC) is a national civics education organization whose mission is to provide an Action Civics education to every student in the country. Our goal is to ensure that every young person possesses the knowledge and skills they need to participate in our democracy as an engaged citizen, capable of making change in their own communities. In our quest to ensure that every student receives an effective Action Civics education, GC serves a diverse population of students throughout the nation, having served over 50,000 students in our nine-year history.
The census is a critical civic tool that helps to define the contours of our democracy. To that end, we hope our students leave the classroom motivated and prepared to engage with democracy, including the census process. Yet, we fear that many of our students, especially from immigrant families that contribute to their communities everyday, may be adversely impacted by the inclusion of a citizenship question in the Department of Commerce’s 2020 Census. Our foremost concern is that including this specific question will decrease the participation of “hard to count” communities who are most in need of the resources and support that a fair and accurately conducted Census can help to provide.
Generation Citizen’s name informs our definition of the term “citizen.” We view citizenship as more than a legal term. Instead, we believe that every single person in this country, regardless of legal documentation, is a citizen. We feel that being a citizen involves and invokes a private and public commitment to strengthen our democracy. This holistic definition of citizenship includes activities like providing legislative testimony on school climate reform, writing an op-ed on the value of civics education, or contacting local government to strategically address issues like affordable housing. Activities every young person, and every individual, in this country can and should engage on.
Inquiries about the legal status of individuals does not advance this expansive and inclusive version of citizenship. In our view, such questions undermine the idealistic but necessary conceptualization of citizenship.
As a nonpartisan organization, our objective is not to advance a political position. Our goal, rather, is to ensure that all voices, especially young voices, are at the table, and are heard, in an effort to fulfill the founders’ conception of our American democracy. Given this vision, we are concerned that the citizenship question may ultimately disempower the future citizens we need to steward our democracy and exclude many of the young people that we serve and for whom we exist. On behalf of our students and the communities we serve, we urge the Department of Commerce to remove the citizenship question from the 2020 Census.
Scott Warren, Generation Citizen, CEO
Andrew Wilkes, Generation Citizen, Senior Director of Policy and Advocacy