State Watch

Census bureau asks states for data that includes citizenship information: report

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The U.S. census bureau is asking states for drivers’ license records, which normally includes citizenship data, and information on people who receive government assistance The Associated Press reported Monday. 

The reported requests follow a recent Supreme Court decision earlier this year that said the Trump administration can’t put a citizenship question on the 2020 census.

{mosads}After the ruling, Trump signed an executive order directing the Commerce Department, which houses the census bureau, “to strengthen its efforts … to obtain State administrative records concerning citizenship.”

The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators told the wire service that most states were given requests for information such as citizenship status, race, birthdates and addresses.

Spokeswoman Claire Jeffrey told the AP in an email that “each state is making their own determination how to respond.” 

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White (D) told AP he would not turn over the information. 

“We, as a general rule, are not comfortable with giving out our data, certainly not in such a huge amount. That was the overriding concern,” his spokesman told the AP. 

A Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles spokeswoman told the AP the department has received the request but hasn’t responded. 

Andrea Senteno, an attorney for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which has contested the executive order, told the AP that motor agency vehicle records are “bad at determining when someone is not a citizen.” 

“The Census Bureau usually plans for these types of big changes in their operations many, many years in advance, but they don’t have enough time right now to actually plan and provide clear information to the public about how they are going to use these administrative records,” Senteno said. “They’re flying by the seat of their pants right now.”

The AP reported that a request published last month in the Federal Register said records on recipients of public programs would be used for the Census and other research to “improve efficiency and accuracy in our data collections, and to improve measures of the population and economy.”

The request doesn’t explicitly request citizenship information, but the AP reported that some people who work with the bureau on state data think it could be in response to Trump’s executive order. 

The Hill has reached out to the Census Bureau for comment.

The bureau told the AP in a statement that it began asking for state records in 2016 to help with the 2020 Census and other surveys. These records include birthdates, addresses, race, Hispanic origin and citizenship status. 

It reportedly did not answer questions as to why it was asking for information on drivers’ licenses or why a new request was made last month. 

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