Trump Is Poisoning the Census With Bias

On Monday night, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross announced that he will ask about the citizenship of every person in the U.S. in the 2020 census. He is doing this at the request of the Justice Department, against the advice of the Census Bureau’s career professionals, civil rights groups, and communities across the country. He has admitted that adding this question was “controversial.”

The Constitution requires that the federal government conduct a census every 10 years. The Fourteenth Amendment mandates that the decennial census count the “whole number of persons in each State.” Yet adding the citizenship question threatens exactly this goal by intimidating citizens and non-citizens alike from participating in a process which directly affects their lives. This decision is just the latest in the Trump administration’s attacks on immigrant communities and other vulnerable populations. It puts politics over democratic principles and the consequences will be enormous.

Research from the Census Bureau just last year identified how the current political environment may intimidate individuals in already hard-to-count communities from responding to the decennial census. In fact, the research was prompted by a “recent increase in respondents spontaneously expressing concerns to researchers and field staff about confidentiality and data access relating to immigration.” Participants in focus groups specifically talked about Trump’s anti-immigrant policies like the Muslim ban and his ramp up of deportations as reasons they would fear participating in the census. Driving down response rates in certain racial and ethnic groups not only threatens the integrity of census data, it harms those very communities.

The federal government depends on decennial census data to decide how many Congressional representatives each state receives and states rely on this data to draw the districts for their own legislatures. Adding a citizenship question and depressing response rates in already underrepresented communities will allow politicians to draw even more skewed legislative districts. It will also harm federal and state government efforts to accurately distribute funds to communities based on population in everything from Medicaid to school-lunch programs to veterans’ assistance. As Ross is well aware, the census has already struggled to accurately count the numbers of many non-white groups. Inserting this question threatens the progress made over the previous two censuses.

The political decision to add a citizenship question becomes even plainer when looking at the context for the Justice Department’s request. The Department of Commerce was required to submit to Congress the topics of its proposed questions last March in order to ensure the chance to provide input and test the wording of questions. Yet citizenship was not among the topics submitted to Congress and was rushed into consideration because of a late request from John Gore, the acting assistant attorney general in the civil rights division and a Trump political appointee.

Five former directors of the census, serving in both Republican and Democratic administrations, have opposed this decision. The Justice Department argued that citizenship data is critical to the enforcement of the Voting Rights Act, yet the decennial census has not included a citizenship question since 1950 (which the exception of New York and Puerto Rico in 1960). In fact, the Justice Department already has citizenship data available to it, which is collected through smaller population surveys that can be adjusted statistically to account for people who don’t respond. The critical difference is that the decennial census is an actual hard count of the population, and if someone doesn’t respond because they are intimidated, they simply go uncounted.

Democracy requires that the census count people in all communities, not just those whom the administration favors.

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Among many issues with asking the citizenship question is the fact that many people residing legally in the USA aren't citizens. They may be legal permanent residents or have other types of long-term residency status. (Eg, Melania Trump's parents are not citizens but are apparently here legally.) US immigration laws and the various types of legal status under those laws are complicated. Iit isn't helpful to divide the perceived categories into citizen and "deport them!"


Everyone can invoke the 5th.


Illegal immigrants are represented by lawmakers in Congress, they just can't vote for them.
You don't have to be a citizen of this country to have rights in this country.

Anonymous by Choice

Please tell me how the number of non-voters is relevant to the allocation of congressional voting districts? Also, when the headline banner of the ACLU site uses an anti-Trump campaign as its fund-raising totem, why should any of us think the ACLU (as currently constituted) is hopelessly biased? Finally (reason I went to the site), how could this organization totally ignore the blatant assault on attorney-client privilege represented by the FBI raid on Trump’s lawyer? Make your case based on legal principles please, not your bias. Which used to be the hallmark of the ACLU btw. If you are a lawyer in this country, you should be ashamed, very ashamed. “First they come for thee...”

Don Tobias

Why the hell would I want to be anonymous in writing you f****** bastards? Do you really believe that I am intimidated or afraid of you? You pieces of s*** have no place in this country though that's what I was calling to write about need to get your f****** ass out of this country and then do whatever communist scum whole you would like to wallow in eat s*** and die m************


Non citizens are not suppose to be able to vote like they did for the Democrats in 2016. The purpose of voting is to chose representatives. Based on the logic of not allowing the citizen question on census means you tolerate illegals to vote. It also means there are far to many illegals bleeding the taxpayers by freeloading and you also approve it as well. It was on the census form until some liberals took it off. Restore it .


Where is your outrage regarding mueller order Trumps long time Lawyers office to be raided? This is a violation of Atorney - Client privelage, it would not be tolerated if it had happened to Clinton. The ACLU is so biased against conservatives it’s rediculous and certainly is generating opposition to its goals.


If illegals are counted in the census then later leave the country or are deported, then based on the reported millions here there would be an unnessary number of representatives. This logic suggests the ACLU prefers to have illegals violate our immigration laws.


Why is the ACLU defending foreign interference in our elections?

Scott Williams

The ACLU's argument on this issue is so outrageous that it borders on being laughable. The underlying constitutional purpose of the census is to apportion political representation. Political representation belongs to citizens not illegal aliens. Does the ACLU really believe that our Founding Fathers intended the census to apportion political representation to foreigners that show no loyalty to our republic? Like I said, this argument is so silly as to be laughable!


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