Census Citizenship Question Illegally Discriminates Against Immigrants

UPDATE (3/21/2019): On Jan. 15, a federal court blocked the Trump administration from adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census, stating that it constitutes an “egregious” violation of federal law. Judge Furman concluded that if the Trump administration got its way and a citizenship question was put on the census, “hundreds of thousands—if not millions—of people will go uncounted.” The Trump administration has appealed the ruling and the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case. The ACLU will appear before the Supreme Court on April 23, 2019. 

For the first time since 1950, the census will ask respondents whether or not they are U.S. citizens. It may seem innocuous, but the addition of the question — in essence, a door-to-door government inquiry as to the citizenship status of every member of every household in the United States — will have far reaching consequences. It will dramatically reduce participation by immigrant communities, stunting their growing political influence and depriving them of economic benefits.

This is not an unintended side effect. It’s the reason the Trump administration sought to add the question, rejecting the advice of Census Bureau’s professional staff, its scientific advisory committee, and five previous census directors from both Republican and Democratic administrations.

Manipulating the census to discriminate against and disadvantage certain groups violates both the Fifth Amendment right to equal protection and the constitutional obligation that the census counts every living person in the United States, not just every citizen. The Trump administration must not be permitted to use the census as a tool to carry out its discriminatory designs — which is why the ACLU and partners have filed a federal lawsuit to block the question’s inclusion before it’s too late. 

The Trump administration has claimed that the Justice Department needs citizenship information in order to enforce the Voting Rights Act. Its pure pretext — the Voting Rights Act has been enforced by the government and private parties for over 50 years and during that time the Justice Department has never had access to individual level citizenship data. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has provided no explanation, let alone a detailed analysis, as to why gathering citizenship data through the census is suddenly necessary.

What the administration has done, however, is make its animus toward immigrant communities abundantly clear. Since taking office, President Trump has routinely denigrated immigrants — calling them “rapists,” “terrorists,” and asking “why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here,” and stating his preference for immigrants “from places like Norway.” His administration’s hostility is evident in a sweeping range of anti-immigrant policies, including the issuance of the Muslim ban, the rescission of DACA, the ending of temporary protected status for hundreds of thousands of immigrants who have resided in the United States for years, criminal prosecutions of asylum seekers, increased ICE raids and deportations, and the forced separation of immigrant children from their parents.

Like these policies, the citizenship question is specifically designed to harm immigrants and instill fear among their members. In fact, the Trump administration added the question with the full knowledge that Census Bureau personnel had recently issued specific warnings that Spanish-speakers, Arab-speakers, and Chinese-speakers, among others, were already expressing unprecedented levels of concern about participating in the census.

Lower response rates will be catastrophic for communities and states with large immigrant populations. As a result of an undercounting of their residents, states may lose seats in Congress and crucial federal funding that is tied to census results. The 2020 census data will also be used by states to draw congressional and state legislative districts. Depressing census response rates in already underrepresented communities will allow politicians to draw even more skewed legislative districts and further dilute the political power of these communities. That result plays directly into a longstanding Trump administration plan to exclude non-citizens when apportioning legislative districts as a way to further strip the political power of immigrant communities.

In fact, anti-immigrant crusader Kris Kobach, who publicly stated that he had proposed the idea of the citizenship question to Trump, made clear that the goal was “so Congress [can] consider excluding illegal aliens from the apportionment process.” This strategy has already proven successful. Following the addition of the citizenship question to the census, legislators in Missouri recently introduced a bill to amend its constitution to draw state legislative districts using only citizens, rather than total population. And the state of Alabama filed a lawsuit seeking to prevent counting undocumented immigrants when apportioning congressional seats.

If the citizenship question is permitted to stand, other states seeking to further this nativist agenda are likely to follow suit.

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Legal immigrants have no reason to fear a question they must already answer in a number of other government interactions. It is difficult to imagine why someone who has taken the time and effort to obtain a visa from the government would be reticent to share that with the government. Illegal aliens, on the other hand, have no right, civil or otherwise, to be in the country, and should fear the authorities, as should anyone who has violated our borders and breaks federal law and commits fraud on a daily basis in order to stay.


In a new nation composed almost entirely of immigrants, with no bars to citizenship status save residency & desire, and government that subsisted entirely upon excise taxes and provided ZERO social services whatsoever, the question of citizenship was moot. Note carefully the _exclusion_ of *non-tax paying* Native Americans from the census tally enumerated in your link to the Constitution: that should provide the basis for utilization of citizenship information [for right or wrong, & in my personal belief, MUCH WRONG, 1st peoples were NOT considered citizens (or even, fully human) by many of the colonials.] We now live under a completely different set of circumstances, where the political hegemony conveyed by counting such drains on the tax-payers' resources has enabled certain demagogues to remain in office, vs. what would happen if the districts were counted & apportioned based upon actual eligible voters. It's time to stop the de facto gerrymandering and return the nation to the political center: populism has had its century in power, and nearly ruined the nation; it's time to fix that. BTW, you're somehow confusing "immigrant" with "citizen;" they aren't mutually exclusive terms. I can only surmise that misdirection is intentional.


What an absolute crock of sh!t.

The U.S. census is used to determine how many citizens are in the country - citizens, not immigrants or illegal aliens. The ACLU has their heads stuffed up their collective assholes.


I think the USA citizens question is good. ILLEGAL ALIENS should not come before AMERICAN CITIZENS We have put Illegal aliens children in schools and had payed more money to help them to learn English. No more. We have enough poor people that need our help. HELP AMERICANS FIRST


The ACLU lost it's way years ago. It is now objectively a partisan, far-left organization.


Someone who is not a citizen of this country does not and should not be given full rights of a citizen. They come here by breaking our laws, continue to break them by staying (and some of them doing a heck of a lot worse), and then expect not only to be counted in the law-making process but funded for staying here. Nope. Just nope. The ACLU is anti-American, very un-civil and has no idea what liberty is.


The "political" reasons for adding questions about citizenship aside completely, I have found this information EXTREMELY helpful in doing family history research. To restore the question(s) would be helpful to future generations in understanding their ancestors' lives. In addition, we already know that the census does NOT, in fact, enumerate every single individual residing at any place in the United States (& I have digital copies of old census records showing multiple listings for folks who were either dead long before that census or were listed in two completely different households on a single census). - So, do we overthrow the Constitution then because the census hasn't been totally accurate? (Rhetorical question that needs no answer because we do NOT need to overthrow the Constitution.)

Patrick S.

If the ACLU wants to work for citizens of other countries, they should leave America and work for them in their legal country of residence. If you want to practice law in American courts, I would suggest your priorities be the Constitution, the country and our citizens, not illegal invaders.


What is your agenda my friend. Your still shinning over the loss of the most important post arguably in the world and because our stature and defaced godfathers had enough foresight to hurry the common idiot we are blessed to Finnish have a man of grit,shoot from the hip and don't care to obcess over politicaly correct sh-t.Yes you fool,best way to an honest persons heart is show some integrity and put the presedents whole reason he tweeted or made the reasonable comments he has.Put them in complete context and people will get em who cares he says what's on the front of many others minds and.Shut up you and all the little whiney children who won't give the man credit even when mass idiots continue to threaten our nation and because of tools tha t think they think like you on our soil and certainly closer then anyone may realize.And he's had to fight for every damn thing he's accomplished and donated his earnings from his post and didn't take vacation right after starting or even as of yet it's been balls out for this man .Fortitude as big as all of our capitol city and still bash bash bash .sad


A way to "ethnic cleansing ".


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