In a move that is sure to alienate some of us who live in the United States of America, the Commerce Department has announced that the question of citizenship will once again be included on the 2020 Census. According to CNN, this is a move that was requested by the Justice Department, made early during the Trump administration, because they need to better enforce the Voting Rights Act.
But anyone who has a brain can quickly understand that this is just another move in President Trump’s anti-immigration agenda. In fact, the president’s campaign sent out an email last week that said he wants to “ask people whether or not they are citizens” and describes the move as “COMMON SENSE” (yes, in all capitals) but then goes on to describe that “19 attorneys general said they will fight the President if he dares to ask people if they are citizens.” Well, dared he has, and this is going to be a huge loss for everyone who lives in this country — but especially the undocumented.
#BREAKING: Filing suit against @realdonaldtrump's Administration over decision to add #citizenship question on #2020Census. Including the question is not just a bad idea — it is illegal: https://t.co/vW8sa7khq9
— Xavier Becerra (@AGBecerra) March 27, 2018
Why does this seem so bad? Well, the president would have you believe that this “common sense” question is something that’s better for the country, but in fact it is now. The Census is intended to count the entire population and NOT just U.S. citizens, since its data is “used to determine where federal funds are spent and how congressional districts are drawn,” according to CNN. Asking people if they are citizens would likely mean that many undocumented people, roughly 11 million people according to the PEW Research Center, would not complete the questionnaire and leave a big chunk of the population uncounted. Not only that, but even legal immigrants may be scared to fill out the Census, since who knows what the government will do with the data.
“This is an arbitrary and untested decision that all but guarantees that the Census will not produce a full and accurate count of the population as the constitution requires,” Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said to CNN.
This seemingly simple change to the Census could have potential consequences for the next decade, and beyond.
Constitution does not require citizenship question. This is purely political. Trump Administration is trying to rig the 2020 Census (to protect gerrymandering) by intimidating people. Don’t be fooled-some states will unfairly lose funds and representation. We will sue. https://t.co/2R3mZ0FQSp
— Eric Holder (@EricHolder) March 27, 2018
The Census comes out every 10 years and the government asking people if they are citizens implies that they only plan to count citizens. On top of the 11 million undocumented and the almost 1 million young people receiving benefits under DACA, it’s possible that 34 million LEGAL immigrants who go uncounted because they might be afraid of the government looking into their cases or their families’ status. That may not be the initial purpose of including the citizenship question, but how long before this anti-immigrant administration considers immigrants 3/5 of a human?
The matter isn’t completely resolved yet. This move may be unconstitutional, according to an op-ed published by California’s attorney general and secretary of state.
“The Constitution requires the government to conduct an ‘actual enumeration’ of the total population, regardless of citizenship status. And since 1790, the census has counted citizens and noncitizens alike,” Xavier Becerra and Alex Padilla write. They go on to say:
This request is an extraordinary attempt by the Trump administration to hijack the 2020 census for political purposes. Since the first day of his presidential campaign and through his first year in office, President Trump has targeted immigrants: vilifying them and attempting to exclude them from the country. Think travel bans, repeal of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, ramped up Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids that tear parents away from their children. Immigrants and their loved ones understandably are, and will be, concerned about how data collected in the 2020 Census will be used.
This move is, without a doubt, a political move by an administration that has proven time and again that they hate immigrants. Although I am a naturalized American citizen, I am afraid of where this road will lead. With a huge change like this to the 2020 Census, we could be fighting an uphill battle for immigration rights and reform for many generations to come