Fears of Census Inaccuracy Due to Immigration Concerns

Early test surveys show that the accuracy of next year’s census in the US could be at risk because immigrants are afraid to provide correct data to US Census workers in case it is used to deport them, according to a government official.

Mikelyn Meyers, a surveyor for the Center for Survey Measurement at the Census Bureau, told a National Advisory Committee meeting at the bureau that there has been a massive swell of concern about data sharing and confidentiality among immigrants or people who live with them. The census takes place every ten years, as mandated by the US Constitution, and is also used to distribute billions in federal funding to local communities and to work out the allocation of seats by the state in the House of Representatives.

The Census employees running the early test surveys, as well as focus groups, report that immigrants have been giving partially, or sometimes, completely false information, or broken interviews about the individuals living in their household, according to Meyers’ presentation, which is available online. Meyers says this behavior represents a massive departure from previous censuses and is related to the perception that some groups are unwelcome, together with questions on legal residency.

Meyers says one person told government interviewers that they were terrified the Census would provide internal security with their personal information, and they would be arrested by immigration officials. Strict immigration enforcement has been the hallmark of the Trump administration since January.