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Citizenship Question To Be Removed From 2020 Census In U.S. Territories

Afternoon traffic passes in front of a mural depicting the U.S. and Guam flags in the Tumon district on the island of Guam.
Virgilio Valencia
AFP/Getty Images
Afternoon traffic passes in front of a mural depicting the U.S. and Guam flags in the Tumon district on the island of Guam.

The U.S. Census Bureau revealed plans Friday to remove a question about citizenship from census forms that will be used for the upcoming head counts in American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Asked why the change was made, the Census Bureau said in a written statement: "No citizenship question is to be included on the 2020 Census, this includes the Island Area censuses too."

The change comes shortly after three federal courts issued orders to permanently block the Trump administration from using the 2020 census to ask about people's U.S. citizenship status.

The legal battle over the citizenship question has focused on the forms used in the census of the 50 states, which determines how congressional seats and Electoral College votes are distributed stateside.

The Census Bureau, however, also conducts a head count once every 10 years in each of the U.S. territories. Since 2000, Puerto Rico has used the same census form as the one used by the states, as requested by the island's government. Washingon, D.C., also uses the same form as the states.

The other territories, which the bureau calls "island areas," have conducted their counts with a different questionnaire. The bureau said the "original plan" for the 2020 island-area censuses was to use forms with questions adapted from the American Community Survey — including the question, "Are you a citizen or national of the United States?"

A similar question was previously asked for the island-area counts in 2010 and has not been explicitly challenged in the courts.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Hansi Lo Wang (he/him) is a national correspondent for NPR reporting on the people, power and money behind the U.S. census.
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