The 2020 Citizenship Question
The Trump administration has been pushing a citizenship question on the decennial United States census questionnaire since January of 2018. As immigration tensions rise and the 2020 U.S. census nears, the addition of this question to the document has been hotly debated.
The Supreme Court and the administration are at a stalemate, with the Court temporarily blocking the movement in June saying the reasons cited were insufficient. It ordered the case back to the lower courts. The block, however, eliminated the time needed to debate this issue and make a final decision in time for to print the questionnaires. So for practical, not legal, reasons, the opponents won that round. But what would be the advantage of having such a question added? The public must continue to wonder what would be the negative impact of adding it?
So last week, Trump ceded the issue. Instead, he pivoted and stated that the missing information will be compiled by other documents via an executive order issued to government agencies (BBC). In other words, yes, the census would be printed without the question, but the battle to obtain the citizenship status of the U.S. population is far from over.
Adding a query regarding citizenship to the questionnaire is not a new idea. Dating back to the mass from Ireland in the 1820’s to the 1950 census, some variant of a citizenship question was included. Until 1920, the question was only asked of men as their citizenship status was considered an umbrella for their respective wives and children (PEW Research Center).
So, why are we reconsidering the question now?
Opponents assert that the question is being used as a scare tactic to fulfill Trump’s campaign promise of cracking down on illegal immigration. However, the American Community Survey already includes a question about the status of a participant’s citizenship. This survey is taken every year with a sample group of over 3.5 million, and neither the information from that survey nor the U.S. census can be used to enforce legal action or disclose the information of participants. Critics also worry that those here illegally would opt out of taking the census all together, eliminating any information on a sizeable portion of those residing in the country (Daytona Beach News-Journal).
Those in favor of the question argue that the information of those residing in the country illegally can help better inform civil rights action, apportionment of seats in the House of Representatives, and allocation of aid to states. The illegal immigrant population in certain areas could determine the distribution of over $675 billion in federal spending (Associated Press).
There are strong opinions on either side of the issue, along with the questions of seizing highly classified government records to discern an individual’s citizenship.
As this debate continues, there appears to be agreement on one issue. Citizenship matters in critical decisions that need to be made. This solution is not in partisan politics that has become today’s norm. Once again, our leaders on both sides of the aisle are failing in their Constitutional duties.
When will this end?