Courts hear arguments whether census should include citizenship question

Is this person a citizen of the United States?

That's the question on trial at the Supreme Court, where the nine judges are listening to arguments about whether it should be on the 2020 census. As lawyers weigh in on the debate, locals give their own take at home.

There's not much consensus.

"I don't see a great harm (with it) being on there." said Mel Mills.

"I don't think it's necessary in the terms of if the census is there to count the number of people, I don't think it's an important fact," said Saim Rehman, a Wayne State University student.

The fight over immigration has spilled into the nationwide survey. Designed to give the federal government an official count of the population and the demographics that make it up, some argue providing a citizenship question is key to making sure illegal immigrants don't fill out the survey.

However, federal judges in New York, California and Maryland said because the census has nothing to do with citizenship status, it shouldn't be included. That doesn’t mean many don’t think the opposite however.

"Asking them a question if they're a citizen shouldn't be a problem," said Mary Rish.

Those critical of the question worry the inclusion of a citizenship inquiry would cause 6.5 million immigrants to not be counted, which would have a negative impact on the state's federal funding and representation in Congress.

Because the state's funds that are drawn down from the federal government are linked to its population, if fewer people choose to fill out the census it will mean less money.

"I do see with the political climate nowadays, it can be a concern for people who say they're not citizens and could be under some kind of investigation," said Rehman.

New reports from the Supreme Court seem to imply the judges will vote on party lines regarding the citizenship question - if that's the case, the 2020 census will have the question on it.