Cleveland, OH — Late last month, news broke that the Trump Administration is seeking to add a question about citizenship status to the 2020 Census. A Trump 2020 campaign email left no doubt that the decision was politically-motivated.
Civil rights advocates, constitutional scholars, and voting experts were swift to denounce the idea and explain how it would undermine the integrity of the Census.
In a blog post, Jeanine T. Winfrey, Esq., Director of Immigration Counseling Services at the Vineyard Community Center in Westerville, explains some of these concerns:
The Census is one of the basic mechanisms for fair and competent governance. A citizenship question on the 2020 Census will increase the likelihood of an undercount, threaten non-voters’ constitutional right to be counted, and jeopardize the equitable distribution of public funds. The community in which every uncounted person lives will get a little less of almost everything it would otherwise be entitled to for the next decade.
Former director of the Census Bureau John Thompson said in February, “There are great risks that including that question, particularly in the atmosphere that we’re in today, will result in an undercount, not just of non-citizen populations but other populations that are concerned with what could happen to them.”
Regardless of where one stands on immigration, a politically-motivated, inaccurate Census will impact the integrity of the American system and its ability to promote equality and guard against the abuse of power.
The Akron Beacon Journal’s editorial board cited similar problems in their editorial, “Don’t risk the Census”:
What Ross overlooked is this unique moment, President Trump having conducted a campaign of fear and intimidation since opening his run for the presidency. Consider the recent reporting of the Detroit Free Press and the Cleveland Plain Dealer about the aggressive arrest record of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, taking into custody many without criminal backgrounds.
In that way, the Trump White House doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt, no matter how many times the secretary insists on the good intentions at work.
Ask about citizenship, and the message goes out to immigrants, documented and undocumented: Don’t take the risk of answering the census.
That jeopardizes an accurate count of all residents here, required by the Constitution. The ripple effect then is wide, affecting, for instance, the process of redistricting and representation in Congress, not to mention in statehouses and city halls. The flow of federal money, involving such things as education, highways and health care, reflects the census count.
A flawed count is not good for business. Companies, larger and smaller, look to the census for sound data to help with decisions about customers, locations and expansions. Policy making in public health depends on census numbers, especially in identifying at-risk communities. Researchers use the information as part of knowing and understanding the country.
“Politics have no place in the U.S. Census. The Census provides the baseline data that our country relies upon for so many decisions regarding allocation of resources and basic health and human services. Entire communities are penalized when their populations are not counted fully. We should be doing everything possible to ensure the Census is complete and accurate, not politicizing yet another mainstay of American governance,” said Lynn Tramonte, Director of America’s Voice Ohio.