Asking about citizenship on the census is racist, and gives us a less accurate count of the country's population.
Judge Jesse M. Furman of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross committed "egregious" violations of the law when he made the "arbitrary and capricious" decision to add the citizenship question.
Asking about citizenship would likely make the census less accurate, because it would discourage many immigrants from returning their census forms. Undercounting minority communities on the census would hurt those communities on a variety of fronts, from congressional representation to funding for roads and schools.
It could also give Republicans an unfair political advantage. If the citizenship question is allowed on the 2020 census, it "could shift the nation's balance of political power from cities to more rural communities over the next decade and give Republicans a new advantage in drawing electoral boundaries," the Washington Post reported last year.
Advocates and former census officials alike say it's a bad idea to add a citizenship question.
"Trump tried to twist the 2020 census into just another weapon in his war on immigrants, aiming to drive down responses and intentionally leading to a less representative government by hiding millions," Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA), chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), said in a statement to Shareblue Media. "I'm glad the court has intervened to stop this hastily crafted and dangerous question from distorting our census."
The judge's decision was based on how Ross and the administration made the decision to add the citizenship question, not the racist impact of such a question, the New York Times reports.
But it's still a victory for the plaintiffs, and for those who care about the integrity of the census — at least for now.
"Today's ruling is a strong signal to the Trump administration that any attempts to politicize and corrupt the 2020 census will fail," Thomas Wolf, executive director of the Brennan Center for Justice, said in a statement.
"While today's ruling is a victory, we cannot rely solely on the courts to swat down this xenophobic and politically nefarious question," Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX), chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said in a statement. "Congress must come together, across party lines, to ensure we protect the census from politicization and ensure every person is counted justly and accurately."
The Trump administration, of course, has come to be defined by its virulent anti-immigration policies. Trump kicked off his 2016 campaign by calling Mexicans "rapists," and one of his first acts after his sparsely-attended inauguration was an ill-fated ban on Muslims entering the United States. Trump has defended white supremacists after a hate-filled rally in Charlottesville, denigrated immigrants from Haiti and Africa by claiming they come from "shithole countries," and instigated the country's longest government shutdown over a racist attempt to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The attempt to put a citizenship question on the 2020 census is just another in a long line of anti-immigrant racism from the Trump administration. And once again, the courts have to step in to squash the most egregious excesses.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.