July 5, 2019

Census and Citizenship: Will We Round Up Non-Citizens?

Story by Risa Peris

The US Census is written into the Constitution (Article 1, Section 2) to count the number of people in the Union and to apportion the number of seats in the House of Representatives as well as how to distribute national funds. The basic questions were age, sex, race, which I find barely fair given the politics of gender and race during the many decades. In 1970, it was discovered 6% of blacks went uncounted as opposed to 2% of European Americans were uncounted. This is important when it comes to dividing up districts for voting purposes. At one point slaves began to be counted. This was in 1850. 

Currently, Trump and his Administration want a citizenship question on the 2020 Census. This has been controversial and went to the Supreme Court who decided that Trump’s lawyers had a poor “contrived” argument for adding the question. Critics of Trump said the Census is purely a headcount and not meant to determine the legal status of citizens in the country. 


There remain other controversies with the Census. Do we counter prisoners? The US has the biggest prison population in the world. Should they be counted or uncounted? Also, Census data was used to round up Japanese-Americans to place them in internment camps during World War II. 

The Census is not innocent and has been used for nefarious means. The Constitution wants a headcount. It doesn’t specify that only those who are citizens can be counted. This would not be part of their intent as citizenship was wide and fluid during the drafting of the Constitution. The fact Trump, who is notoriously anti-immigrant, wants it in the 2020 Census suggests racism and opposes the decisions of the Founding Fathers and the Constitution. Not even a Conservative Supreme Court found Trump’s arguments valid for including the citizenship in the Census. The latest news is the 2020 Census is being printed without the question, while Trump tries to find a legal maneuver around the Supreme Court decision. 

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