March 27, 2018

Protect The Census

How the GOP and Trump are sabotaging the 2020 census

by Chris Thomas

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Photo by Joey Csunyo

The Trump Administration’s proposed changes to the 2020 census include adding a question last seen on US census forms when the President was still in pre-school: a question about citizenship.

The Constitutional rationale for the Census is laid out in Article I, Section 2 of the United States Constitution which says:

The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct.

That phrase “actual Enumeration” is a thorny one, legally speaking. Back in 1999 when Democrats were trying to use statistical sampling as the basis for the 2000 census, four out of the nine justices on the Supreme Court outright stated that requiring an “actual Enumeration” of the United States would prohibit statistical sampling. The actual counting of the actual people who live in the actual states is, they said, the purpose of the census.

Twenty years later, the Trump Administration is trying to get around that “actual Enumeration” in a different way. Republicans want to ask respondents if they are US citizens for the first time in 70 years. The inevitable result is that many immigrants and their families just won’t be counted.

The counting — the actual Enumeration — of those immigrants matters, and not just to immigrants or their families. The Census is the official tally of residents at a house-by-house level. It is, in a real sense, who we are as a nation and nearly every decision about the annual distribution of more than $600 billion dollars in federal funds is informed by the Census. If immigrants are under-counted their communities will suffer.

The Census is already in trouble as it is. Back in 2014 Congress mandated that the 2020 census “should cost no more than the 2010 count without adjusting for inflation.” When Trump came into office he slashed census funding by another 10%, prompting Director John Thompson to resign. In 2017 the Government Accountability Office put the census on its “high risk list,” naming it as one of a few government programs at high risk of failure.

And all that before the Trump administration dropped a last-minute question on the Census bureau that is almost tailor made to ensure an inaccurate, partisan outcome for the 2020 census.

Tell Congress What You Think

The final decisions about the implementation of the Census fall to the President but Congress doesn’t have to be silent on the matter. You can tell Congress what you think about Census questions, Census funding, or any other issue by texting RESIST to 50409. Or, if SMS isn’t your style, you can contact your government by talking to Resistbot on Facebook Messenger, Telegram, or Twitter.

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