Every 10 years, the United States Census Bureau conducts a “census” which helps count the population of the United States. This population includes everyone living in the U.S. — citizens, legal residents who are not citizens, long term visitors who are not citizens as well as undocumented immigrants. Through this procedure, states are allotted a number of members of the House of Representatives depending on the total population of each state, with the total members of the House equaling 435.
The upcoming census will be conducted in 2020, with the same purpose that it has always had. However, for this census, the Trump administration is trying to bring back a controversial question commonly known as “the citizenship question.”
The citizenship question essentially asks whether or not the people of the household are citizens. In today’s political climate, this question has become extremely controversial.
The Trump administration has a clear stance on undocumented immigrants and many people fear that because of this, the information in the census may not be kept anonymous. Although it is against the law to leak such information, it has been done in the past. Findings published in The Los Angeles Times have strongly suggested that the census helped the U.S. government identify Japanese Americans during World War II.
With many people fearing the possible repercussions of answering this question, some predict that people may try to avoid answering the census altogether, which would interfere with the allotment of representatives and create a bias.
The job of the census is to count the population in order to make sure that states are represented properly. The Connecticut Compromise, ratified in 1787, detailed the importance of fair representation for larger states, which helped create the House of Representatives. If that idea of fair representation is being threatened now, after 232 years, because of a single question on the U.S. Census, the question should be discarded altogether.
Recent litigation concerning the citizenship question argues that it violates the U.S. Constitution and the Administrative Procedure Act in addition to the fact that people may avoid answering the census due to this question. One example is the court case New York v. United States Department of Commerce, in which the plaintiffs argued that the citizenship question was illegal and that it would deter participation. The courts ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, ordering the Department of Commerce to remove the question.
Another court case is La Union del Pueblo Entero v. Ross, which was filed by many groups of racial minorities, and an immigrant group. These plaintiffs also stated that the citizenship question was unconstitutional and it would deter people, especially minorities, from answering the census. These plaintiffs cited the Equal Protection Clause as well as the Appointment and Enumeration Clause, stating that the job of the census is to appoint congressional seats based on sheer population. The courts have just begun this trial process.
The citizenship question serves no real purpose in the census — it does not help with redistricting in the U.S. House of Representatives and should therefore not appear on the 2020 census.
If the U.S. government wants a fair and unbiased documentation of the number of people living in each state, they should realize that by adding this citizenship question their data will be inaccurate.
It is important to note that redistricting will also affect the Electoral College. If people do not answer the census because of the citizenship question, the results of the election may be affected as well.
The citizenship question is unnecessary; it will do nothing but deter people from answering the census and therefore give the U.S. Census Bureau inaccurate numbers regarding the population. This will affect the laws that the government passes, the people that are elected and the rights of every single person living in this country.
In order to ensure that everyone in this country is represented equally, the census should concentrate on the number of people, not just citizens, living in each state. The job of the government is to represent all people, not just the people born here or those who are naturalized citizens.
Anika Veeraraghav is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org .