Several states are planning to take President Donald Trump to court over his administration’s decision to ask a controversial question on the upcoming 2020 census.
Eighteen states in total, along with a handful of U.S. cities, are suing the administration over its decision to ask about citizenship in the census.
“This decision will ‘inevitably jeopardize accuracy of the population count’ by significantly deterring participation in immigrant communities, because of concerns about how the federal government will use citizenship information,” the lawsuit contends.
Asking individuals whether they’re citizens or not would indeed violate standards that have been set in the past, including what have been applied under Republican administrations. Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush Sr. both resisted asking participants about their citizenship status within the census.
Doing so could skew the official count, as undocumented immigrants may avoid the process altogether or may wrongly state that they are citizens. Others may avoid the census out of confusion over the question.
One study on the possible outcomes of asking about citizens' status suggested that more than 24 million individuals could avoid taking part in the census itself if such a question is presented. Yet despite these findings, the Trump administration is going forward with asking individuals if they’re a U.S. citizen or not.
The U.S. census is conducted every 10 years and is designed to help determine how many Congressional seats are allocated to each state. The census is also used to help allocate money and other aid to states and communities through legislation passed by Congress. A skewed count, therefore, could affect millions of Americans in detrimental ways.
Notably, the Constitution does not contain any provisions requiring the census to differentiate between citizens and non-citizens. Getting a proper count of all residents, regardless of their citizenship status, seemed more important to the founders.
Members of the lawsuit against the Trump administration seem to agree.
“One of the federal government’s most solemn obligations is a fair and accurate count of all people in the country, citizen and non-citizen alike,” New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said.
The Trump administration absolutely cannot be allowed to contradict the standards set up by the U.S. Constitution, nor the rules that have been applied in censuses for the better part of the last 70 years. Their motivations seem to be wholly political, and their biases against undocumented immigrants could potentially ruin the process altogether.