The Guilfordian

Filed under In Print, Opinion

New census question damaging for nation

The census, which has been around since 1790, is supposed to be a representation of the people who live in our country. It should be representative, a reference for both citizens and legislators to see an approximate depiction of who lives in the United States.

However, the Trump administration has decided to include a question asking respondents whether they are citizens or not. The choice does not seem, to me, like one done out of concern for immigrants, both documented and undocumented. The question has not been asked since 1950. Instead, it’s a fear tactic, meant to discourage people from filling out the census if they are undocumented. Without census responses from everyone, including non-citizens, the information will be skewed. If people do fill it out, the government will have information on who is and isn’t documented, which could serve as a deportation tool.

The reasoning for the question, according to the Department of Commerce, is for enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. “Having citizenship data at the census block level will permit more effective enforcement of the VRA,” says Commerce.gov. “Secretary Ross determined that obtaining complete and accurate information to meet this legitimate government purpose outweighed the limited potential adverse impacts.”

However, the Republican party and the current administration has not had a history of being interested in protecting the rights of minority voters. Instead, the Republican party does best when voting suppression and gerrymandering is present in an area. Often, this comes in the form of requiring photo ID, which denies many citizens the right to vote. Unless the Republican party has largely changed its stances, I do not believe that that the citizenship question is innocuous.

Since 1950, there has not been a citizenship question on the short form of the census. The census has a yearly survey called the American Community Survey, which does ask about citizenship. This is different, however, from the census, as it is sent to a random 3.5 million addresses in the United States, according to census.gov. Unlike the census, the federal government cannot gain access to the individual results. The federal government can, though, gain access to the information to the census. The census is also used for the apportioning of the House of Representatives.

California, too, does not see the addition of the question as harmless to our nation. The state is suing the Trump administration under the claim that it violates the U.S. Constitution in that it is intended to suppress responses.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has been active in opposing the citizenship question.

“What the Trump Administration is requesting is not just alarming, it is an unconstitutional attempt to discourage an accurate census count,” Becerra said in a statement.

As of April 10, 17 states have joined the lawsuit. North Carolina has recently joined as well. The lawsuit needs support. We should, as constituents, let our representatives know of our support of the lawsuit and our opposition to the citizenship question. We must not simply be outraged. We must act.

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