Ever since the idea was floated out three months ago — to include a citizenship question on the 2020 Census — it has provoked much opposition. Nevertheless, the Trump administration this week decided the question will be asked.
And that has us asking why?
Especially in the Rio Grande Valley, a region where there are many undocumented immigrants, asking for this type of information surely will dramatically lower the number of respondents. And an inaccurate count will affects local funding, as well as accurate representation in Congress, which was why our Forefathers mandated in the U.S. Constitution that we hold regular census counts.
U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Monday he decided to add the controversial question to the count after a Department of Justice request based on the desire for better enforcement of the voting law. “Secretary Ross determined that obtaining complete and accurate information to meet this legitimate government purpose outweighed the limited potential adverse impacts,” a statement from the U.S. Department of Commerce said.
Ross said in a memo that the Voting Rights Act requires a tally of citizens of voting age to protect minorities against discrimination, and that getting this information as part of the Census would make it more complete. Ironically, it is these very minorities that we fear will not participate in a count, at all, if it contains a citizenship question.
As U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, said in a statement Tuesday: “This action could penalize communities with low response rates, large immigrant populations, and a history of being undercounted.”
Although all Census information is deemed confidential under Title 13 of the U.S. Code, fears of deportation and sharing of residents’ information among federal agencies is very real and could very likely hinder many people from participating.
“It is clear that this is an intimidation tactic and an attempt to suppress participation in the upcoming Census,” Gonzalez said.
Adding a citizenship question will only “further drive down Latino participation in the constitutionally mandated census,” said Ann Beeson, CEO of the Center for Public Policy Priorities. It’s “just a scare tactic.”
A citizenship question has not been included in a U.S. Census for almost 70 years. And it’s not needed now.
Texas state Rep. César Blanco on Tuesday called on Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton to sue the Trump administration to block inclusion of the citizenship question.
Paxton and Abbott are old hat at suing the Trump administration — often on immigration-related policies they deem unfair and costly to Texas — and so we encourage them to do so once again on this issue because an undercount certainly would be unfair and costly for our state.
Texas is expected to gain up to three new congressional seats, due to increased growth, if confirmed by this count. But it won’t if people don’t participate.
The State of California, which also has a large immigrant population, on Tuesday filed a lawsuit in federal court against the Commerce Department and Census Bureau to block the move, arguing that it would discourage immigrants from participating.
As Common Cause President Karen Hobert Flynn said Tuesday: “Americans deserve a fair and accurate Census where everyone within the borders of our country are counted, regardless of their citizenship status. The inclusion of the citizenship question threatens that constitutional requirement and politicizes this process.”