The 2020 census will now include a question asking people for their citizenship status in an effort to monitor the Voting Rights Act and make sure every American has the opportunity to take part in democracy. However, many state politicians are concerned that the new question will deter immigrants from filling out the survey — the results of which will then not accurately reflect the current population and information about those living in the United States.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey announced last month that she plans to sue the Trump administration for including a question like this, tweeting that the goal is to “undermine our state’s funding and representation.” She joins several other state attorneys general in filing this lawsuit, each of whom raised similar concerns about the implications of an unfair census.
The national census survey, which takes places every 10 years, provides crucial information on our country’s citizens. Financiers turn to these numbers to gauge the appropriate amount of money necessary to grant to states, so they can support social and other governmental programs. It’s also used for democracy: Population counts are used to determine the number of seats allocated to each state in the Electoral College and other representative bodies.
It’s hard not to feel that this change in the census is an attack on a marginalized group of people who already feel like their lives are in danger because of their immigration statuses. With Immigrations and Customs Enforcement arresting and detaining immigrants throughout the nation, deciding to include a question like this sends a clear message to immigrants, many of whom legally reside in this country — namely, that they are not welcome here. This message aligns with Trump’s xenophobic agenda and hurtful rhetoric directed toward immigrants from foreign countries. It’s another example of Trump trying to exclude people who he doesn’t think fit the definition of an American, and quite literally discounting them from democracy.
In fact, if the census fails to count them, then Trump would be effectively taking away from these people’s ability to take part in democracy. Arguably, he’s treating them like second-class citizens — ones who don’t deserve the right to vote or receive federal assistance in any capacity.
And the likelihood of this happening seems high, especially when looking at the limited protections for immigrants in the United States. GOP leaders decided to repeal DACA last September, which was a measure passed by the Obama administration to protect immigrants who arrived to the United States at a young age and met other specific requirements. No wonder so many immigrants would feel like there would be negative repercussions to listing their citizenship status, ultimately causing them to avoid taking the survey all together.
Despite Trump’s efforts to expel immigrants from this country, they still live and exist here. Because of national outcry against these anti-immigration policies, the administration has not been successful in deporting all of the illegal immigrants they promised to rid of during the campaign. Thus, it’s still important that their information gets represented in the national census.
At the end of the day, the census costs a lot of money and is made possible by taxpayers. However, it’s an important measure that originated in the formative years of our country. The idea was to understand the population more, so that the government can take the necessary steps to solve issues affecting their citizens. An ineffective survey wastes people’s’ time and resources. It only happens every 10 years, and is used to influence decisions until population numbers are updated in the next census.
Regardless of whether the decision has political motivation, the fact is that the consequences of this question hurt America as a whole. Inadequate federal funding doesn’t just hurt non-citizens; it also puts into jeopardy the well-being of all U.S. citizens. If the United States is the land of fair and equal representation, then it should stick to the devices that make that possible.