It looks like the Trump administration is about to get its way on a new question on the 2020 census that will negatively affect towns in Texas, Arizona and California.

Essentially, the closer your town is to the border the more it will be negatively impacted.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s plan is to include a question on the 2020 census asking all households about citizenship. Three different courts have already said no to the plan but it looks almost certain that the conservative-packed Supreme Court will clear the way for the question being included in next year’s census.

The census, as mandated in Article 1 of the Constitution, calls for an accurate count of all the people residing in the United States. It very clearly calls for, and the Census Bureau has consistently maintained it is for, an accurate count of all people living in the U.S. INCLUDING people illegally in the country.

Respondent confidentiality has always been of the utmost importance. Trusting your information not to be shared with other government agencies…say INS, for example…has always been a concern.

I have lived in a border city for two Censuses (Censii?) and a big push has always been trying to convince people living here to respond. It has already been a tough sell for many people in border towns; not just undocumented aliens but also citizens and legal residents that are skeptical for a variety of reasons. Maybe there’s someone in their household who isn’t legally here. There’s a huge effort that we take part in to let people know that they’re not in danger of being deported or getting in trouble for taking the census. We’ve had Census Bureau officials come on the radio and plead with people to let everyone they know, regardless of their status, to take part in the census.

People had a historic reason to be skittish, even if they weren’t aware of that history. During World War II the Roosevelt administration used census data to round up Japanese people, including U.S. citizens, who were then sent to detention camps for the duration of the war. The Census Bureau has been doing damage control ever since, assuring people in every way possible that this would NEVER be allowed to happen again. 1950 was the last year that a question about citizenship was included and rebuilding the trust of immigrants, documented and otherwise, has been an uphill battle but some progress would be made every ten years.

Then, Trump got elected. Do you think any illegal resident in his or her right mind would be willing to answer a question about citizenship knowing who is in the White House? And, if you’re reading this saying “Good! We shouldn’t count illegals”, you’re ignoring the whole point of the census: to count everyone in the country. It’s IN the Constitution. You’re not anti-Constitution, are you?

There are many reasons we want a full count of EVERYONE in the country when we do the census every ten years. It’s one of the main ways the federal government decides where nearly a trillion dollars in federal apportionment goes. That comes in the former of federal dollars for roads, hospitals, schools and a myriad of other public services. If you live in a community with lots of people who are afraid to take the census, it’s not those people that suffer. It’s the entire community. The closer you live to the Mexico border, the more you’re getting short-changed. With the addition of this question, your community will be short-changed even more. And, I think that’s kind of the point. Would the Trump administration use census data to go after individuals? Maybe. Would Mr. Trump be happy to see communities that weren’t red in 2016 suffer? Assuredly. As recently as yesterday Trump bragged about his idea to send refugee-seekers to so-called “sanctuary cities” as a form of “punishment”. The idea of denying those same communities their fair share of federal dollars and representation would have him giddy. I’m not an illegal immigrant but if I were, knowing what I know about the current administration, I’d avoid the census at all cost.

So, what can we do? There have been a few suggestions. One is that everybody answer the citizenship question as, “Not legally in the country” but who knows what Trump and his boss Stephen Miller would do with THAT. Another suggestion is that everybody, including citizens, should just not answer the citizenship question. Again, who knows what the ramifications of that might be. I don’t think it matters. This citizenship question has probably already done what it was designed to do: discourage non-citizens to not take the census. Non-citizens have always been leery about the census. With this president and this change, they probably have very good reason to be so.

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