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Are you a citizen? Here’s what happens if you lie on the census.

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Federal law provides that anyone who refuses to answer or willfully neglects to answer any of the questions in connection with any census or survey shall be fined a maximum of $100, or a maximum of $500 if the person gives false information.

In theory, noncitizens should not fear answering census questions. Surveys are mailed to addresses, rather than to specific individuals. Not including individual names on the address label is meant to protect the confidentiality of the participating households.

Additionally, federal law provides immunity for persons who give answers to census questions. Information furnished cannot be “used to the detriment of the persons to whom such information relates.” Census reports may not be admitted as evidence or used in any action or proceeding, without consent.

These laws are designed to deter someone from refusing to answer questions on the census claiming a Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.

Practically speaking, though, anyone who is concerned about their legal status may not want to volunteer this to the same federal government that could deport them. It’s hardly a sentiment limited only to noncitizens. In past enumerations, some Republican leaders have all but encouraged open defiance of the law.

Then-Sen. Trent Lott, a Mississippi Republican, once advised constituents to fill out “the basic census information” but added that if they felt “their privacy is being invaded by those (additional) questions, they (could) choose not to answer those questions.”

And George W. Bush, then a candidate for president, said he “(understood) why people don’t want to give over that information to the government.”

Prosecutions for failure to participate in the census are rare; most significant court cases dealing with these crimes date back to the 1970s.

The perceived risk of answering remains greater than the virtually nonexistent risk of not answering because the Justice Department is not likely to start prosecuting offenders for refusing to answer.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has indicated that illegal immigration will be a priority for the DOJ under his command, but going after noncitizens who refuse to answer census questions, motivated by fear of being removed from the country, would contradict the overall message the census is trying to send: It is here to count you, not to hurt you. Plus, courts have indicated in the past that purposeful discrimination by census authorities can give rise to a defense of selective prosecution.

Ultimately, the refusal to answer census questions is a federal crime, but not really.

Some categories of federal criminal statutes are heavily enforced. Drug crimes and immigration crimes make up over 50 percent of the federal prosecution caseload.

Then there are those federal crimes that are technically crimes, but not really. For example, it’s a federal crime for a peanut dealer to refuse to tell the government how many peanuts he has. It’s also a federal crime to mail a package of dead bees without writing “DEAD BEES” on every side of the box, using black letters at least an inch tall.

There are a lot of federal crimes. Not all of them are enforced. Refusing to answer the census or lying on it will likely remain in that second category — a crime, but not really.

Danny Cevallos is an MSNBC legal analyst. Follow @CevallosLaw on Twitter.



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Sturgeon warned UK debt hampers ANY independence bid as 'economies are meshed together'

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NICOLA STURGEON has been warned Scotland would suffer economically if the nation were to become independent due to its close ties to the UK.

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Biden to detail Lyft, Uber plan to provide free rides to vaccination sites

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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is backing an effort by Lyft and Uber to help provide free rides for people traveling to get a Covid-19 vaccine as the administration ramps up efforts to motivate those who been hesitant to get the shot.

The ride sharing companies will begin promoting the locations of vaccination centers in their apps and provide instructions for how to redeem a free ride, the White House said today in a statement. While the companies have already provided free and discounted rides to some users, the new promotion will apply to anyone seeking a vaccine and begin in the next two weeks and last through July 4.

The move is part of an effort by the administration to make getting a vaccine as simple and convenient as possible in hopes it will encourage more Americans to get the shot. Demand for the vaccine has been slowing, with 59 percent of the population having already received at least one dose. Biden has set the goal of having 70 percent adults with at least their first dose by July 4.

Biden will hold a meeting with a bipartisan group of governors Tuesday to talk about creative ways their states have tried to reach the unvaccinated. The federal government has been shifting away from a model focused on mass vaccination centers and to more targeted distribution utilizing retail pharmacies, doctor’s offices and mobile vaccination units.

At the meeting Biden will also announce a program for community colleges to set up vaccination sites for students, staff and the general public through June. There will also be additional funding available for states to conduct phone banks, door-to-door canvassing, and pop-up vaccination sites in workplaces and churches.

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Keir Starmer dealt fresh blow as closest aide quits amid Angela Rayner 'briefing war'

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SIR KEIR STARMER is facing a party crisis after his closet aide, Carolyn Harris, quit amid accusations she was spreading rumours about Angela Rayner’s private life.

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