Donald Trump’s obstinacy toward immigrants is at every level. If they arrive at the border requesting asylum, he utilizes the cruelest mechanisms to keep them from continuing to come. That includes the separation of families, returning them to Mexico to wait for their hearings, or packing them together in inhumane conditions, including children and babies, all with the goal of “deterring” others.
Regarding those undocumented immigrants already living here among us, some for decades–with established families and citizen children on top of working and paying taxes–Trump wants to kick them out by canceling programs that have permitted them to live without the constant terror of deportation, such as DACA and TPS.
But it goes beyond that. With his insistence on including a citizenship question in the 2020 Census, this President is looking to erase undocumented immigants from the map, conscious of the fact that such a question would mean that people without documents–and even their legal resident and citizen family members–will not participate in the decennial count. They do this, knowing that the results of the census determine how billions of dollars in federal funds are divided among the states and localities for different programs and projects–from schools and Medicaid to public services and infrastructure. It also determines how many seats in the House of Representatives correspond to each state. This means, the count must be the most accurate possible so that jurisdictions receive federal funds and obtain seats in the lower chamber of Congress based on how many people reside there, whether or not they are citizens.
The U.S. Supreme Court sent the case over the citizenship question back to the lower courts because the Trump administration could not justify why it wanted it included in the Census.
At one point it was believed that the White House would stop trying to add the question to the Census forms and would begin to print them but Trump, like always, insisting on satisfying his base at all costs, declared that his administration would continue to look for a way to add the question, and what he said evidentiates his real intentions. “You need it for Congress… you need it for districting,” the president declared, referring to the fact that the Census figures are used to draw district lines and determine the number of seats in Congress.
But that is not what the Trump administration argued before the Supreme Court when it indicated that the question was necessary in order to implement the Voting Rights Act, an explanation that, according to the high court, could not be sustained.
That is, the Trump administration’s plan is to provoke an undercount, particularly in jurisdictions with high concentrations of minorities, especially Hispanics. That way, upon drawing the district lines and determining the number of seats, non Hispanic whites would benefit the most and, in addition, Republicans would benefit over Democrats.
Attacks on the Census are not new. What is new is the nerve with which the administration is engaging these attacks and how it is politicizing even exercises articulated in the Constitution. Trump, in fact, indicated that one of the alternatives he is considering was to include the citizenship question via executive order, although over the weekend experts questioned the legality of this move, since Article I of the Constitution assigns Congress, not the president, the responsibility of overseeing the decennial count.
The Census starts April 1, 2020, when Trump will still be president. Every ten years civic organizations, together with the media, begin campaigns to encourage minorities and particularly undocumented immigrants to fill out the forms, conscious of the fear that these sectors feel toward the authorities (although the information collected is confidential).
This next decennial count will take place in the middle of the 2020 election in one of the worst anti-immigrant atmospheres in recent years, lead by the president himself, and no matter what happens with the citizenship question, Trump and his administration have already planted the seed of fear and mistrust.
Because there is no doubt that recent events involving the Census constitute yet another battle in Trump’s war against migrants and minorities.