The controversial question would ask people if they are citizens and, if so, where they were born. If they are naturalized citizens, it would ask in what year they became one. It would not ask if they are here legally, according to Wilbur Ross, secretary of the Commerce Department, which oversees the Census Bureau.
Has a question been asked in the past?
Sort of. A question related to citizenship status was asked on the 1820, 1830 and 1870 census questionnaires and in each decennial census of the total population from 1890 to 1950. But today's understanding of "citizenship" wasn't formed until the 1910s and '20s. Until nearly the 20th century, the U.S. essentially had open borders for people from certain parts of the world. Since 1960, the citizenship question has been asked of only a sample of households.
Why do some say the question is necessary?
The official explanation has been brief. Ross stated in March that the...