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Over 7,000 people granted National Verification Cards (NVC) in Rakhine State of Myanmar

Aung San Suu Kyi has prioritized three main tasks for Rakhine - repatriation of refugees who have crossed over to Bangladesh and providing humanitarian assistance effectively; resettlement and rehabilitation; and bringing development and lasting peace to the region

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Displaced Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine. Wikimedia.

Myanmar, October 29, 2017 : More than 7,000 people have been granted national verification cards (NVC) in Myanmar’s Rakhine since an authentication process started on October 1, authorities said on Sunday.

The process is one of the recommendations proposed by an advisory commission on the state, led by former UN chief Kofi Annan, reports Xinhua news agency.

Using biometric methods for the national identity system, the process is being carried out in areas where stability returned to normalcy, U Aung Min, director of the Rakhine State Immigration and Population Department, said.

National verification process is the first step toward scrutinizing citizenship in accordance with the 1982 Citizenship Law, the officer said, urging local people to hold national verification cards as long as they live in Myanmar under the 1949 and 1951 Union Citizenship Acts.

Meanwhile, Myanmar has formed nine private sector task forces to join the mechanism of Union Enterprises for Humanitarian Assistance, Resettlement and Development (UEHRD) in Rakhine, chaired by State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi.

ALSO READ UN Report on Rohingya Hunger Crisis Suspended on Order of Myanmar Government

The newly established mechanism aims to allow the government and all local and international organizations to work in all sectors and all strata of society for the development of the state.

Suu Kyi prioritised three main tasks for Rakhine – repatriation of refugees who have crossed over to Bangladesh and providing humanitarian assistance effectively; resettlement and rehabilitation; and bringing development and lasting peace to the region.

The government is also ready to implement a national verification and repatriation process in accordance with agreed criteria set out in a joint statement between foreign ministries of Myanmar and Bangladesh in 1992. (IANS)

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U.S. Court Blocks Question On Citizenship For U.S. Census

The Census Bureau itself recommended against adding a citizenship question, estimating that at least 630,000 households would refuse to fill out the 2020 questionnaire if such a question were included.

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An envelope contains a 2018 census test letter mailed to a resident in Providence, R.I., March 23, 2018. VOA

A federal judge has blocked the Commerce Department from including a question about U.S. citizenship on the 2020 census.

To plaintiffs in the case — a sizable coalition of states, cities and advocates — the question seemed aimed at turning the official population survey into a tool to advance Trump administration policies by discouraging immigrants from participating.

In Tuesday’s ruling, which came after a two-week trial in New York, U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman said that the decision to add the citizenship question was made before data was collected to show that a change in policy was necessary.

In his 277-page ruling, Furman wrote that the decision was “pretextual” and thus violated a federal law called the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).

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Migrants traveling with children walk up a hill to a waiting U.S. Border Patrol agent just inside San Ysidro, Calif., after climbing over the border wall from Playas de Tijuana, Mexico, Dec. 3, 2018. VOA

Furman said the APA requires federal agencies to study an issue before changing policies, and the Commerce Department, which oversees the Census Bureau, “violated the public trust.”

Documented noncitizens

About 11 million people who live in the U.S. are undocumented, but there are also about 13 million documented noncitizens who might fear responding to the census questionnaire if citizenship is included.

“Hundreds of thousands — if not millions — of people will go uncounted in the census if the citizenship question is included,” Furman said.

The U.S. census is taken every 10 years and is next scheduled for 2020. It plays a critical role in U.S. politics since the apportionment of House of Representative seats is based on population figures derived from the census and also disbursement of millions in federal funds. In addition, decisions from the location of businesses to the makeup of state and local districts are based on the census.

Plaintiffs argued that noncitizens tend to live in places that disproportionately vote Democratic, so an undercount would likely shift political power and federal spending to Republican areas.

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Immigrants participate in a naturalization ceremony to become U.S. citizens in Los Angeles, Dec. 19, 2018. VOA

Furman’s ruling is only the opening salvo on the citizenship question. The Supreme Court has already agreed to hear an aspect of the case in February, hoping to rule before the Census Bureau has to print its questionnaire. In addition, the government is expected to quickly appeal Furman’s ruling.

Reasoned explanation

The U.S. government fought hard to keep the citizenship question out of court. When that failed, government lawyers argued that how Commerce Department Secretary Wilbur Ross reached his decision on the citizenship question was “immaterial.”

“All the secretary is required to do is to provide a reasoned explanation,” Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brett A. Shumate told the court. “He doesn’t have to choose the best option.”

Ross has said that he decided to add citizenship to the census in response to a request from the Justice Department, which said that census data on citizenship would help it better enforce the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

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Migrants wait in line for food at a camp housing hundreds of people who arrived at the U.S. border from Central America with the intention of applying for asylum in the U.S., in Tijuana, Mexico, Dec. 12, 2018. VOA

Citizenship was on the questionnaire in censuses before 1960 and is still part of the American Community Survey, which samples about 2.6 percent of the population each year, in order to help local officials and businesses understand what is going on in their communities.

‘Forceful rebuke’

But last January, the Census Bureau itself recommended against adding a citizenship question, estimating that at least 630,000 households would refuse to fill out the 2020 questionnaire if such a question were included.

Also Read: International Immigrants May be Healthier Than Native: Study

“This victory in our case is a forceful rebuke of the administration’s attempts to weaponize the census to attack immigrants and communities of color,” the American Civil Liberties Union said in a statement about the case.

Along with the ACLU, plaintiffs included 18 states, the District of Columbia, several cities and some immigrant rights groups. (VOA)