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Davis Avoids Taking Position On Citizenship Question, While Durbin Criticizes Trump

Rodney Davis speaks with reporters after an event with Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, at a church in Springfield
Brian Mackey
NPR Illinois
Congressman Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville

As President Donald Trump pushes for a question about citizenship on the census, a Republican Congressman from central Illinois is avoiding taking sides on the issue.

Republican Congressman Rodney Davis said he could go either way on whether U.S. residents are asked if they are citizens on the decennial survey.

“The president has clearly made his intention known,” Davis said after an unrelated event in Springfield. “I just want the census to work. I want everyone in this nation counted. It has a tremendous impact on states like Illinois.”

Illinois is at risk of losing up to two congressional seats.

Dick Durbin speaks with reporters outside his house in Springfield
Credit Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois
NPR Illinois

An analysis by the U.S. Census Bureau found that the question could lower participation rates.

Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, a Democrat, said the president wants the question in order to discourage Latinos from participating.

“Why would they be discouraged? For fear the Trump administration would use that information to investigate their families and possibly deport one of their relatives,” he said Monday in Chicago.

The U.S Census Bureau is required by law to keep answers confidential. But such information has been misused in the past, most notably to send Japanese-Americans to internment camps during World War II.

Durbin said he understands the fear.

The Trump administration had argued that collecting data on citizenship would help enforce federal rules like the Voting Rights Act. The U.S. Supreme Court temporarily blocked the question – in part saying that reasoning seemed contrived.

Still, Davis worried just having the debate could discourage people from participating.

“And when we have this debate on the census, what the long-term effect is, less people decide to participate,” he said. “That would be the saddest part.”

Illinois plans to spend $29 million to encourage participation in the census.

Mary Hansen is a former NPR Illinois reporter.
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