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2020 Census Asks For Your Racial Identity, But Not If You’re A Citizen

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Your government cares about how you “identify,” but not whether you are a citizen. This asinine fact is illustrated by a single question in the 2020 U.S. census, just another sign of the administrative state run amok. As fellow Federalist contributor Kyle Sammin highlights in a recent article, question No. 9 of the census asks for respondents’ race and origin.

That a society that has at least strived for color-blindness abides the federal government asking about race is in and of itself troubling. It amounts to the enshrining and legitimizing of identity politics in our political system — not that it wasn’t already baked into the government cake in myriad ways.

But the identity-obsessed bureaucrats in the administrative state, buoyed by like-minded interest groups, go even further when they request “origin” in conjunction with race, in the sense of how respondents “identify,” — “Irish, English, Italian, Lebanese,” and so on, in the Census Bureau’s words.

Set aside that America has historically been a melting pot, which conflicts with the concept of hyphenation one could argue the origin question implies, whereby we assimilate into a common culture with shared values, principles, and customs, while still retaining the traditions of our forefathers. Why is it the business of government to collect this data?

It claims to use statistics about race to “[help] federal agencies monitor compliance with anti-discrimination provisions, such as those in the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act.” But what does someone identifying as Danish or Djiboutian have to do with anything?

Something Doesn’t Add Up

Also, how can we square the government’s willingness to ask us about race and origin with its unwillingness to ask about something as fundamental and relevant for both the government and the American people as citizenship?

Readers may recall that the Trump administration sought to reinstate a question in the 2020 census asking respondents to indicate whether they were citizens. Leftist and pro-liberal immigration groups, led in part by Obama administration Attorney General Eric Holder, were outraged, bringing litigation against the Trump administration. They argued including the question would chill primarily Latino respondents, leading to an “unconstitutional undercount.”

They claimed such populations would fear that a Trump administration resolved to stem illegal immigration from America’s southern border, and restore some semblance of sovereignty, would abuse the data to target illegal immigrants. This notwithstanding the fact that the citizenship question would not have even allowed people to self-incriminate by indicating the legality of their immigrant status in the first place.

If these respondents stayed home in large numbers, Democrats would have likely lost both representation in Congress and taxpayer dollars for their districts. This is because noncitizen populations predominate in major urban areas that are Democratic strongholds, and it is the total population count, including noncitizens, that is used to determine both the apportionment of House seats and the allocation of hundreds of billions of federal dollars.

Why the Citizenship Questions Isn’t on the Census

Ultimately, in spite of the historical inclusion of this question in practically every census count — either for the entire population or a large representative sample of it via the so-called long-form census, or American Community Survey — and the simple fact that citizenship is one of the most basic questions with which any nation is concerned, the Trump administration was denied the opportunity include it in the census.

It lost at the Supreme Court not because the question was deemed unconstitutional nor because the process by which it was included was considered unlawful. Instead, the court, in a 5-4 opinion clinched by Chief Justice John Roberts, struck the question on the basis of a never previously invoked technicality. It claimed the administration’s rationale for reinstating the question, that it allowed proper enforcement of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), was disingenuous, “contrived,” or “pretextual,” as the court put it.

As Justice Clarence Thomas summarized in a dissenting opinion, the court applied an “administration-specific standard” in making an “unprecedented departure from our deferential review of discretionary agency decisions.” “For the first time ever … [the court] invalidated an agency action solely because it questions the sincerity of the agency’s otherwise adequate rationale.”

Counting all people rather than citizens to determine political representation and how the government doles out tax dollars is legally debatable and simply unfair. It becomes even more outrageous considering the incentives for politicians to encourage illegal aliens to flood our borders and seek safe harbor in sanctuary cities.

The greater the populations in these blue areas, the more potential blue House seats and federal funds. Noncitizens including illegal immigrants therefore dilute the votes of some Americans while increasing the political power of others.

Noncitizens Can Shift Political Power

Don’t the American people have a right to know the extent to which noncitizens affect power in our political system? It appears to be staggering.

According to a December 2019 analysis by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), which supports limited immigration, the 2020 census “will show that the presence of all immigrants (naturalized citizens, legal residents, and illegal aliens) and their U.S.-born minor children is responsible for a shift of 26 House seats.” Wouldn’t you know it, of the 26 seats estimated to be lost, CIS projects 24 will come from states President Donald Trump won in 2016.

Meanwhile, months after the Trump administration lost its fight to include the citizenship question on the census, the Census Bureau released results of a test showing that including the citizenship question might lead to only nominally reduced response rates, contra those who cried there would be a material drop in rates. A central pillar of the anti-citizenship question argument collapsed.

The bureaucrats at the Census Bureau are at pains today to highlight the fact that this question was excluded. The first item in the 2020 census website’s “Fighting Rumors” section flags that the 2020 census does not ask about citizenship status. Its web page concerning “Questions Asked on the Form” highlights prominently, “There is no citizenship question on the 2020 Census.”

It is a miracle that Trump can achieve any of his priorities given an administrative state and like-minded judiciary so uniquely hostile toward his agenda. The 2020 census saga perfectly crystallizes this challenge.