Citizenship status has always been a part of territories’ census

Not so for the US census questionnaire
fili@samoanews.com

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — American Samoa has its own long-form census questionnaire, which questions a person's citizenship status, says ASG Commerce Department director Keniseli Lafaele, who noted that this will be the same for the 2020 Census.

The citizenship status question became a local concern following protests in several US cities last week after the US Commerce Department (USDOC), which oversees the Census Bureau announced on Mar. 26, that a question on citizenship status will be reinstated in the 2020 decennial census questionnaire to help the Voting Rights Act (VRA).

Last week Thursday, the 2020 questionnaire was submitted by USDOC to the US Congress — as required by federal law — with the next submission in April 2020.

Growing local concern — as well as by some who reside in the US — is that the citizenship status question, may result in non-American Samoans not participating in the 2020 Census and thereby lose future federal funds for American Samoa under formula grants.

“Federal funds is a function of the population count primarily; and non-citizens, non-nationals do qualify for federal benefits such as WIC and ASNAP if they meet certain requirements,” Lafaele said this past Monday, in response to Samoa News inquiries.

Lafaele said that he sent a request this week to the Decennial Management Division of the US Census Bureau — Island Areas “to send us the 2020 Questionnaire for American Samoa.”

He explained that the citizenship question has always been asked for the Island Areas — the US territories — census. Additionally, American Samoa will, and has in the past, have a separate questionnaire for the 2020 census.

“American Samoa, including all the island areas, has a separate form (long form) whereas the forms for the US states contain only 10 questions,” he explained. “This is the case because of the American Community Survey (ACS) which is conducted stateside every month.”

He added that the US citizen or US national status question — “Is this person a Citizen or National of the United States?” — was included in the 2010 Census. He also shared with Samoa News a copy of the Census 2010 American Samoa Questionnaire form, which shows it.

The 2010 Census until this day is still being questioned by many in the community with some arguing that American Samoa was undercounted, a claim that has been dismissed by federal officials. American Samoa had also pointed out that the lower population count has resulted in less formula grant funding over the past years.

The US Interior Department’s Office of Insular Affairs said earlier this year in February that continued decline in population for some insular areas means a loss of federal monies, which are awarded based on population count.

The US Census Bureau’s population count for American Samoa in 2010 released the following year shows 55,519 people — which was a 3.1% decline, or 1,772 people, between 2000 and 2010.

Samoa News notes that the COS Samoa Packing cannery closed down on Sept. 30, 2009, leaving more than 1,500 people unemployed.

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