Friday, 18 Jan 2019

Are you a citizen? The question of the Trump census on trial: QuickTake

When Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross, announced in March that he was adding a question on US citizenship to the next full count of the United States, this triggered a string of criticisms – and a series legal challenges by cities, counties, states, and the rights of immigrants. groups. US District Judge Jesse Furman, appointed by former President Barack Obama, is seized of the first case, led by the Attorney General of New York State, Barbara Underwood, as part of the first case. a two-week trial in Manhattan without a jury.

1. Why the backlash?

According to critics, President Donald Trump's fiery speech airs: a question on citizenship status in the 2020 census in the United States could deter immigrants and non-citizens from completing the survey on households carried out every ten years. This would distort the numbers, dilute the political power of those who have not reacted. The Trump administration calls it a feverish dream and says it needs to ask the question to help enforce Article 2 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination in election procedures.

2. Has the census ever asked questions about citizenship?

Yes. The question "Is this person a United States citizen?" Or something like this had been in the census since 1820. But it seemed less important as the waves of immigrants on the US coasts became mitigated. last appeared in the full decennial survey in 1950. In 1970, as a result of political pressure, the long-form survey question was only sent to certain households. From there, he migrated to the annual American Community Survey, which replaced the long form in 2005.

3. What are the issues?

Power. The trial, which coincided with a hard-fought mid-term election, could help rewrite the country's political map for a decade or more. The results of the census are used to spread the seats of the US Congress and to distribute the votes of the electoral college that determine the winners of the presidential elections. The data is also used to distribute billions of dollars a year in federal assistance to states and localities. The result could give an advantage to Democrats or Republicans in three years and at least until 2031, right after the next decennial survey.

4. What is the legal problem?

If the administration responded to a legitimate need for information about the non-citizen population or a desire to limit the number of votes. Ross, whose department includes the Census Bureau, first added that he had added the question as a result of a request from the Department of Justice. Later, he acknowledged that he had already discussed the matter with immigration hawks, including the Kansas State Secretary, Kris Kobach, a member of the president's dissolved commission on the election fraud, and former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon long before the promulgation of the Voting Rights Act. (Ross was recently accused of misrepresenting an expert's opinion of how the question of citizenship might affect response rates.) The Census Bureau itself, which has other methods of collecting information to help enforce the law on the right to vote, does not help the case of the government.

5. Why not ask the question about citizenship?

Its real purpose is to dissuade people living in immigrant communities from participating in the survey, lest federal agents use their responses to target or be part of their household, even if they are legally in the United States. In legal terms, opponents say the decision to add the question was "unconstitutional and arbitrary".

6. What does the government say?

That the question of citizenship improves the accuracy of counting and that statements about political motivation are based on "insinuations unrelated." With respect to the issue, the United States asserts that it is common to discuss such important issues internally and that the secretary controls the format and content of the census.

7. Does the Census Bureau share the identity of non-citizens?

No, the office would not communicate the name and address of a non-citizen to the immigration authorities, for example. This is not to say that this is not a real fear for some Hispanics and other minorities, such as Asians, whose households may have a disproportionate number of non-citizens, says William Frey of the Brookings Institution, a census expert who is not involved in this case. l & # 39; case. Frey indicates that 14% of the US population lives in households with one or more non-citizens.

8. How will the problem be solved?

By the Supreme Court, probably. In addition to the current lawsuit in New York, there are others that cross the country and the losers will almost certainly appeal. The High Court rejected a last minute offer to suspend the Manhattan trial pending a decision on whether Ross could be compelled to testify about his knowledge of the process leading up to the issue. On 6 November, he ordered an expedited briefing on the government's proposal to narrow the scope of the plaintiffs' case to documents that, according to the Commerce Department, were used to decide to add the question. Hurry up. The department has already begun planning the 2020 count and is expected to open offices nationwide early next year.

To contact the reporter about this story: Chris Dolmetsch in Federal Court in Manhattan at

To contact the editors in charge of this story: David Glovin at, Peter Jeffrey, Laurence Arnold

© 2018 Bloomberg L.P.


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