This month the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether a citizenship question should be included in the 2020 census. This question has been part of our census since 1820 until 2010 when the Obama administration removed it. It was first included at the request of Thomas Jefferson “for the purpose of more exactly distinguishing the increase of population by birth and immigration.” So it’s not new.

Please note that the citizenship question doesn’t ask about a person’s legal status; it has nothing to do with immigration enforcement. The census data is strictly controlled and can only be used for statistical analysis.

Article I, Section 2, of our Constitution mandates that a census (“enumeration”) be taken every 10 years. The information is used for a myriad of purposes. One is to determine how many members of the House of Representatives a state may have.

So, why all the uproar about including a citizenship question in the decennial census?

Federal law restricts voting rights to only U.S. citizens. It stands to reason that the number of people representing us in Congress should be based upon the number of citizens as opposed to the overall population. After all, if non-citizens are prohibited from voting and aren’t suppose to have the rights and privileges of citizenship why would anybody want to base the number of House members upon an inflated number? Basing the number of House districts in Congress on total population dilutes the representation of actual citizens. The Supreme Court found in Reynolds v. Sims, “to the extent that a citizen’s right to vote is debased, he is that much less a citizen.”

Those opposed to including the citizenship question are saying if you include it, non-citizens will not respond to the census questionnaire. They suggest non-citizens (especially those who have entered the county illegally) will be concerned that they could be rounded up and deported. As mentioned above, there’s a prohibition on such use of the census data. Besides statistics show that there was approximately the same response rate for the 2010 census (that didn’t have the citizenship question) as the previous decennial censuses.

So why the opposition? Perhaps we’re seeing a continuation of what’s happening all too often these days: efforts being driven by politicians who hope to gain votes and more power while further splitting the nation and instilling fear and distrust among our population.

It’s important to know how many people live in our country, citizens and non-citizens. It’s also important to know their ethnic background. Under the Voting Rights Act we’re required to protect minority voters; drawing voting districts so they have the opportunity to elect representatives of their choosing. We’re even required to provide translators at polling places based upon the ethnic make up of the population. In Harris County that’s over four different languages.

The bottom line? We need to determine the overall population and the number of citizens. Doing so will ensure the appropriate number of House districts in each state without diluting the voting power of citizens.

Bill Sargent lives in Galveston.

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(25) comments

Carlos Ponce

Last time the citizenship question was used was in the 2000 long form census distributed while Bill Clinton was president. It was question 13.: https://www.census.gov/dmd/www/pdf/d02p.pdf In 2000 I helped my parents answer their census form. For Dad the question, "Is this person a CITIZEN of the United States?" was answered "Yes, a U.S. citizen by naturalization". For Mom, "No, not a citizen of the United States". Simple. As Bill point's out "the citizenship question doesn’t ask about a person’s legal status". The Citizenship question disappeared in 2010 when Barack Obama was president. It did contain the question (Number 6) asking if you are male or female. The same exact question appears on the 2020 Census. https://www.census.gov/2010census/about/interactive-form.php I wonder if the PC crowd will make that question disappear or include the dozens of sexual orientation identifiers. [unsure] To view the proposed citizenship question for the 2020 Census see page 7 (Page 11 of PDF) at: https://www2.census.gov/library/publications/decennial/2020/operations/planned-questions-2020-acs.pdf

Emile Pope

Garbage. The citizenship question hasn't been on the census since 1950. https://www.npr.org/2019/05/22/719159163/has-the-u-s-census-ever-asked-about-everyones-citizenship-status

Carlos Ponce

Emile, I provided a link to the actual 2000 Census: https://www.census.gov/dmd/www/pdf/d02p.pdf Looking at question 13: Is this person a CITIZEN of the United States? Yes, born in the United States→ Skip to 15a Yes, born in Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands,or Northern Marianas Yes, born abroad of American parent or parents Yes, a U.S. citizen by naturalization No, not a citizen of the United States

Emile Pope

Wrong. The citizenship question on the census hasn't been on the form since 1950!!! And President Obama wasn't born until ten years later. Please get your facts straight. Second. The census is designed to see the number of PEOPLE that live in an area not their citizenship status. And whether or they can legally vote is absolutely irrelevant. To imply that non-citizens don't exist, don't matter, or don't deserve representation is ridiculous. And I won't even bring up the fact that Wilbur Ross has had his case torpedoed by the fact that it has been discovered that the question was proposed by Republican operatives to his department to gain an electoral college advantage for Republicans and non-hispanic whites. No, I think I will... https://www.washingtonpost.com/dc-md-va/2019/06/19/maryland-judge-rules-new-evidence-census-citizenship-question-lawsuit/?utm_term=.3567d00e7e57

Michael Byrd

Not to belabor a point but questions 12-14 in the 2000 census long form do ask questions about citizenship and whether or not one was born in the US

Emile Pope

Most Americans receive the short form...now Republicans are complaining because their scheme was discovered. We definitely know why the wanted it added...

Carlos Ponce

Would Emile object if the question only appears on a "long form" in 2020?

Emile Pope

It won't appear anywhere...

Carlos Ponce

Since there will be only one form, my guess is Emile has no objection. The Supreme Court opinion calls for a continuation. See p 34 of SCOTUS PDF: https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/18pdf/18-966_bq7c.pdf

Carlos Ponce

The facts are - The Citizenship Question appears as question 13 on the 2000 Census.

Emile Pope

I guess that since children can't vote they don't deserve representation either...

Carlos Ponce

We do know that children BORN after a failed abortion cannot vote, have no representation, are given a death sentence in some Democrat run states.[sad]

Richard Moore

From the Pew Foundation: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/03/30/what-to-know-about-the-citizenship-question-the-census-bureau-is-planning-to-ask-in-2020/ "Citizenship asked in the past A citizenship question was asked in each decennial census of the total population from 1890 to 1950. (The 1820, 1830 and 1870 census questionnaires also included some form of a question about citizenship.) Until 1920, it was only asked of adult men; women and children automatically had the same citizenship status as their husbands or fathers. The question was not asked in the 1960 census. Since then, the citizenship question has been asked of only a sample of households, either on the census long form or the American Community Survey, which replaced it in 2010."

Bailey Jones

I'd like to add this question to the census - "Does anyone in this household own a gun? If so, how many and what type?" I would imagine that this question would be met with a certain amount of paranoid outrage by gun owners who would see it as a means of compiling a list of gun owners for the inevitable confiscation that is always just one liberal presidential election away. And their concerns wouldn't be completely unwarranted. The 1940 US Census was used by the federal government to commit one of the greatest human rights violations of the last century - the internment of US citizens of Japanese ancestry in concentration camps during WW2. So, it should come as no surprise that Latinx residents, legal and otherwise, might have some trepidation about the citizenship question. Especially now that the president has announced the immediate rounding up and deportation of "millions". Without offering an opinion about it one way or the other, because really I don't have one, I will just point out that anything in the census that tends to decrease participation by Latinx citizens has the potential to lessen the number of representatives Texas has in congress, and by extension, the number of electors who vote in the electoral college.

Carlos Ponce

The argument given for removing the Hyde Amendment is that it prohibits the poor from obtaining a "Constitutionally sanctioned" abortion. If they remove the Hyde Amendment I would recommend the following be added to your question, "Does anyone in this household own a gun?" If not the government will provide you with a firearm so you can carry out your Constitutional Right to keep and bear arms. Some poor cannot afford those guns![cool]

Carlos Ponce

"Especially now that the president has announced the immediate rounding up and deportation of 'millions'. " Bailey, they had their due process. A JUDGE has ordered them to leave and they refuse to go.

Gary Miller

Bailey. A slight reduction in Texas is no problem. The much larger reduction in the liberal/sanctuary states is what liberals are fighting.

Dan Freeman

Bailey Jones wrote: “The 1940 US Census was used by the federal government …[for] the internment of US citizens of Japanese ancestry in concentration camps during WW2.” I completely agree the internment of US citizens was completely wrong. Nearly 33,000 US citizens of Japanese origin fought valiantly against fascism in Italy and Germany. However, the internment was not based on the release of names by the Census Bureau. An exception has been discovered for the release names in the Washington, DC area in response to a request by the Secret Service in 1943. Block level data, which does not contain names, may also have been use in 1943 as a “mopping up exercise.” https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/confirmed-the-us-census-b/

Carlos Ponce

1940- 1945 - A Democrat president and Congress. Hmmm.....

Bailey Jones

The Dems have always had their racists, Carlos. Racism is as American as apple pie.

Carlos Ponce

And some still are. At the Impeach Trump rally Lawrence Jones, an African American Reporter was told to "go back to Fox News and pick cotton". He was also told to "go back to Kenya".

Bailey Jones

A matter of degree, I reckon. In 2000, Kenneth Prewitt, then director of the U.S. Census Bureau, wrote: “The historical record is clear that senior Census Bureau staff proactively cooperated with the internment, and that census tabulations were directly implicated in the denial of civil rights to citizens of the United States who happened also to be of Japanese ancestry.”

Gary Miller

We elect presidents with popular vote statewide but by the electoral college nationally. Knowing how many residents of a state are legal voters should be the number of electoral college votes a state gets. The constitution gives states complete control of state voting laws. It doesn't let states use non citizen residents for national ( congress and president ) elections. Using non citizen voters to increase a states Electoral College votes is not legal.

Emile Pope

Totally wrong. Non-citizens are people and deserve representation. They pay taxes and are subject to the laws and protections of the state. Just because the Republican plot to suppress voters was discovered is no reason to get upset...

Emile Pope

The Supreme Court just ruled that the question can't be added...Crunch...

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