Minnesota demographer: Question will hurt census accuracy

Minnesota's state demographer says adding a question about citizenship status to the 2020 U.S. Census will make the count less accurate.

Susan Brower said Tuesday research shows fear about the population count taken every 10 years keeps people from responding, and those fears are often highest among immigrants.

Minnesota has seen waves of Somali and Hmong immigrants boost its population. Brower said even legal immigrants are concerned about giving the government more information.

"I can tell them until I'm blue in the face how safe it is and what protections are in place, but if folks don't trust that it's safe, we're going to see a depressed response rate," Brower said.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Monday that the question is necessary to enforce the Voting Rights Act.

But that question hasn't been asked since 1950, and critics say the data are already available.

Bo Thao-Urabe, the executive director for Minnesota's Coalition of Asian American Leaders, said the fast growing Asian community here would be undercounted with a citizenship status question.

"People are worried about how the government will be utilizing the data and some people have come from countries where the government has targeted the. that causes some concern in the community," Thao-Urabe said.

Thao-Urabe said the majority of the new community members are refugees. Some may not qualify for citizenship yet.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey is urging Congress to remove the citizenship question, saying an inaccurate low count of diverse populations would hurt cities like Minneapolis when it comes to distributing federal money.

Minnesota could lose one of its eight U.S. House seats depending on the 2020 census.

MPR News reporter Riham Feshir contributed to this report.

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