The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion The Census Bureau already asks about citizenship — for good reasons

Catherine Rampell's Jan. 5 op-ed, "The GOP sabotage of the census," and the Jan. 3 editorial "The wrong question to ask" failed to acknowledge that the Census Bureau already asks about 3.5 million people each year if they are U.S. citizens through the American Community Survey (ACS).

If the Census Bureau has no qualms about asking a citizenship question to these many millions through the ACS , it does not follow that asking about citizenship across the entire country somehow would "sabotage" the data collected or "deter" undocumented individuals from returning the census forms.

As the Census Bureau states on its website, the ACS asks about citizenship status because "we ask about place of birth, citizenship, and year of entry to provide statistics about citizens and the foreign-born population. These statistics are essential for agencies and policy makers setting and evaluating immigration policies and laws, understanding how different immigrant groups are assimilated, and monitoring against discrimination. These statistics are also used to tailor services to accommodate cultural differences."

Somehow, both Ms. Rampell and the editorial consider asking this question a sneaky way for Republicans to undermine the electoral power of blue states. The Census Bureau's own rationale, however, proves this assertion to be misguided.

Edward Blum, Washington

The writer is president of the ­
Project on Fair Representation.