Census Would Be ‘Meaningless’ Without Citizenship Question, Trump Says

April 1, 2019 Updated: April 1, 2019

President Donald Trump said on April 1 that the once-a-decade U.S. Census would be a waste of taxpayer dollars unless it features a citizenship question.

The president made the remark on Twitter as the Supreme Court reviews whether the process Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross followed to reinstate the citizenship question violated the law.

“Can you believe that the Radical Left Democrats want to do our new and very important Census Report without the all-important Citizenship Question,” Trump said. “Report would be meaningless and a waste of the $Billions (ridiculous) that it costs to put together!”

The Constitution requires the government to conduct a census every 10 years. The survey’s results are used to draw political boundaries, allocate political seats at the local, state, and federal levels, and disburse $800 billion in taxpayer funds.

The last time a census asked all U.S. households a citizenship question was in 1950, however, the Census Bureau regularly includes citizenship questions on its other surveys.

Supporters of adding the question argue that only U.S. citizens should be counted to determine the allocation of seats in Congress. The question is particularly important because an estimated 10 million to 20 million illegal aliens now live in the United States. Meanwhile, illegal aliens are crossing the southwest border at levels not seen in a decade.

Opponents of adding the question argue that people who have immigrated to the United States legally would be discouraged from answering the question.

Ross announced the addition of the new question in March last year, saying that the Justice Department requested citizenship data in order to enforce the Voting Rights Act, which protects eligible voters from discrimination.

Counting noncitizens, the Justice Department argued, would distort the apportionment of congressional seats. The effect would dilute the voting power of African-Americans and other minority citizens, contrary to federal law.

Oral arguments are scheduled for April 23, with a decision expected by the end of June, shortly before the census forms are due at the printer.

District Judge Jesse Furman ruled in January that Ross broke federal laws by adding the citizenship question and used the Voting Rights Act as a pretext to add the question. Furman, an appointee of former President Barack Obama, stopped short of a finding that Ross intended to discriminate against immigrants.

The decision came in a lawsuit brought by 18 states, 15 cities, and a number of civil-rights groups.

In urging the Supreme Court to overturn Furman’s ruling, Solicitor General Noel Francisco said Ross had discretion to add the citizenship question, and that there was a “long pedigree” in the census for asking about citizenship or country of birth.

He also said other democracies including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Indonesia, Ireland, Mexico, Spain, and the United Kingdom ask about citizenship on their censuses.

Another federal judge, Richard Seeborg in San Francisco, on March 6 also declared the citizenship question illegal.

Following that ruling, the Supreme Court said it will also decide whether Ross’s actions violated the Constitution’s Enumeration Clause, which sets out terms for counting people.

The new citizenship question would ask: “Is this person a citizen of the United States?” The response options would include several “yes” options with qualifiers to show where the person was born and whether he or she was naturalized. The last option states “no, not a U.S. citizen.”

Reuters contributed to this report. 

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