Citizenship and the Census… the Controversy Is Coming to a Head

Should the 2020 U.S. Census include a question asking whether the person responding is a U.S. citizen? That’s the question that has caused intense debate in Washington lately that may have a huge impact on the next 10-year census.

Between 1820 and 1950, that question was on every census form. However, it has only been on a small percentage of census forms since 1960.

But the fact of the matter is each question on the census impacts a wide variety of areas. It determines how many seats in the U.S. House each state has, as well as almost every corner of American life. From business, education and polling, to name a few.

This is why adding or subtracting survey questions can be highly controversial. But before I ask you to answer the question yourself, let me give you a bit of history.

Two Opposing Viewpoints

Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross wants the question added to the 2020 census form.

He says the Justice Department wants that question included. That’s so the Voting Rights Act of 1965 can be better enforced to avoid minority discrimination in elections.

Democrats say that’s a sham. They believe this Donald Trump appointee wants the question added to keep non-citizens from being counted in the census. They argue that the U.S. Constitution requires the counting of all people residing in the country. Not just citizens.

The theory is that many undocumented residents will refuse to fill out their census forms. Because they don’t want to raise a red flag by telling the government they are undocumented.

Divided Along Party Lines

Why is this timely? The census is a year away, right? Yes, but census forms will be printed in July. So, the Supreme Court must make a decision on this issue by the end of June.

So far, 18 states have challenged the addition of the question. Plus 16 municipalities and the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

If non-U.S. citizens are not counted in the 2020 census, some states will lose billions in federal funding. They will also lose seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

States with the highest percentage of non-citizens tend to vote Democratic. States with the lowest percentage of non-citizens tend to vote Republican. Of course, there are some exceptions.

District Judges Weigh In

Judges in various parts of the country are critical of the Trump administration’s attempts to add the question to the census form.

George Hazel is a U.S. district judge in Maryland. He called the attempt “woefully deficient.”

Richard Seeborg is a U.S. district judge in California. He called efforts to justify it a “cynical search.”

Jesse Furman is a U.S. district judge in New York. He said, “They are the acts and statements of officials with something to hide.”

All three of those states voted for Hillary Clinton over Trump in the 2016 presidential election.

Media Against the Question

Some interesting reactions to this controversy come from the editorial board of the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper.

Lisa Garvin calls the citizenship question “a modern-day scarlet letter.” Victor Ruiz refers to it as “an onslaught on people.”

Thomas Suddes wrote, “Congressional districts are based on the number of residents, not the number of citizens. Hold down the non-citizen count in a given (hint: Democratic) state, and that state gets shortchanged in the U.S. House.”

Eric Foster writes, “The citizenship question causes more harm than good. Due to the fact that there is zero good that can come of it.”

Media in Favor of the Question

But other board members disagree. Ted Diadiun writes, “Of course we should ask the question. Only those who are trying to help illegals hide in plain sight would have any reason to oppose this.

“If illegal immigrants refuse to participate, thereby lowering the ‘official’ population of sanctuary states like California… oh, well.”

Mary Cay Coherty concurs. “Ask the citizenship question,” she wrote. “This data, like racial demographics, is important. The question poses no threat.

“Seventy-five percent of our 44 million immigrants are here legally. And census data cannot be used against the 11 million illegal immigrants. Why the worry?”

What Do You Think?

As promised, here is the question again:

Should the 2020 U.S. Census include a question asking whether the person responding is a U.S. citizen?

Let us know your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you on this important topic.

As always, let’s keep it civil and respectful of others’ opinions. Even if you disagree with them.


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