It’s been nearly 70 years since census-takers last asked all residents in the nation whether they were U.S. citizens. Now the Trump administration’s Justice Department wants to reinstate the citizenship question for the 2020 census and says doing so would improve voting-rights enforcement. But California, other Democratic-majority states and immigrant advocates see a more sinister purpose: to reduce census participation by intimidating undocumented immigrants and their families, and thereby lowering population counts that are the basis for determining the number of a state’s seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The last-minute request to add a citizenship question to the census, with no time to test its effects, “would violate the Constitution and undermine the purposes of the Voting Rights Act that the Justice Department claims it wants to protect,” attorneys general of California, 17 other states and Washington, D.C., along with the governor of Colorado, said in a letter last week to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, whose department includes the Census Bureau.
Nonsense, said Justice Department spokesman Devin O’Malley. He said the department “is committed to free and fair elections for all Americans and has sought reinstatement of the citizenship question on the census to fulfill that commitment.”