A letter sent Monday to the United States Department of Justice asking them not to inquire about citizenship status on the 2020 census was co-authored by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey.
The letter, also co-authored by the attorney generals of 18 other states and the governor of Colorado John Hickenlooper, was written in response to the Trump administration’s recent proposal of adding a citizenship question on the upcoming census. It emphasizes the potential consequences of such a question.
The letter stated that citizenship data would weaken the enforcement of voting rights across the nation.
“Adding a citizenship question — especially at such a late date in the 2020 Census planning process — would significantly depress participation, causing a population undercount that would disproportionately harm states and cities with large immigrant communities,” the letter states.
Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin has also voiced opposition to the potential measure. He said in a press release that he was worried this type of question on the census would result in an inaccurate population count in Massachusetts and other states with large numbers of immigrants, which could, in turn, lead to a loss of funding and representation.
“Everything I see here suggests to me that they don’t really want a good count in states like ours,” Galvin said.
If the proposal goes into effect, Gavin said he is willing to intervene.
“If, in fact, they go ahead with their effort to try to insert questions into the census that are going to be discouraging to people, I am prepared to consult the Attorney General about bringing legal action against the federal government,” he said in the release.
Daisy Novoa, 35, of Jamaica Plain, said she thinks such a question would be aimed toward certain populations.
“If you’re asking [about] citizenship, it would probably be to target certain people from different countries,” Novoa said. “So, I think that would be very unfavorable for some minorities or for people of some countries.”
Novoa also mentioned the broader implications of the proposed measure.
“[It is] very disappointing that this country that is supposed to be a melting pot of cultures and was supposed to be found and based on immigrants, suddenly is becoming super careful of others,” she said.
John Harris, co-founder of the Boston May Day Coalition, an organization that fights for the rights of immigrant workers and immigrants as a whole, said he is against the proposal.
“I think it is just one more measure to try to essentially keep these people in the shadows, to instill fear in this section of the population and by extension, other people as well,” Harris said. “I think the letter is a reflection of what a big section of the public feels, and sooner or later, the politicians will begin to listen.”
However, Harris said he believes that it will take more than just a letter to enact lasting change with regards to immigration policy in the United States.
“I think it’s going to take the construction of a mass social movement in defense of the rights of migrants in this country,” Harris said.
Stephen Binsack, 26, of Allston, said he works with undocumented residents every day and does not think such a question on the census would deter them from completing the form.
“I think, if anything, they’d probably go to their source that would [usually] help them, like a community health center or maybe one of their children,” Binsack said.
Alex Hardy, 31, of Jamaica Plain, said he supports Healey’s position as well.
“I’m glad to see [Healey] taking action on that,” Hardy said. “The census is so important [and] has a big impact on our representative government, so any sort of monkeying around with that for political ends [is] upsetting.”
Hardy also said he believes a citizenship question could stop certain residents from filling out the census.
“There are plenty of parts of the country where people who are not citizens live in great fear of that question,” Hardy said. “It’s easy to see how that could be used to suppress results.”