Dave Tunnell: Citizenship and the Census

May 2, 2019

Editor: A recent article in this paper highlighted concerns about the 2020 census and particularly about a question to be included concerning citizenship. I am a bit of a family history nut and have looked at thousands of individual census report sheets over the years. In many ways the passing census formats mirror where we were as a country at that time in history.

Prior census documents have included questions on citizenship, race, place of birth, age and other items. As a matter of principle, I have no great objection to the inclusion of such information and realize that this data can be of great use in looking at family information in a given census year. I look forward to mid-year 2022 when I can see my own entry on a census list (the 1950 census for Van Zandt County Texas) for the first time.

However, the news article is correct in that getting accurate census data will be harder with a citizenship question. This is because of the lack of knowledge of the 72-year delay in making census data public. The officials and employees of the US Census Bureau have been diligent and faithful in collecting, preserving and protecting our census information over 23 census enumerations since 1790. Their professionalism is not at question. These professionals did not ask for this question on citizenship. Those professionals have good statistical methods to make that calculation very accurately.

The President of the United States asked for this question. Why? We will never officially know, but the most likely reason is that he wanted to take a shot at California for voting against him so heavily. Actions often produce unintended results. Mr. Trump aimed at California and is going to wind up hitting Arizona, Texas and Florida. There is a major problem in having an administration that prides itself in making decisions on whims without any concern for the lasting consequences.

Dave Tunnell

Lake Havasu City