UPDATE 7/11: In the face of mounting evidence of the unconstitutionality of his administration’s push to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, Trump announced he is giving up on adding a citizenship question. He has instead ordered federal agencies to turn over any data they have the citizenship and immigration status of individuals living in the U.S., information he will make available to states in the hopes that those controlled by Republicans will use the information to gerrymander districts and assure a Republican stranglehold on some state governments. It’s unlikely that would legal, but a number of states are planning to pursue it anyway, hoping that Trump’s efforts to stack the courts with conservative judges might allow their plans to move forward.
UPDATE 7/3: Trump has gone against his own Commerce and Justice departments and ordered that staffers do whatever they can to get the untested and unnecessary citizenship question added to the 2020 Census. This comes one day after both federal departments announced that the Census was being printed without the question, following a Supreme Court ruling last week that temporarily blocked the question when the justices determined the administration’s reasons for adding it didn’t pass muster. Legal experts said the question would discourage immigrant participation and potentially change how congressional seats are distributed among states and how federal funds for health care, education, infrastructure and more are distributed to the states.
Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross has directed the Census Bureau to add an untested and unnecessary citizenship question to the 2020 Census form, which would require households to disclose the citizenship status of all individuals in the home in order to be counted. Critics say the question could intimidate immigrants and lead to a serious undercounting of all U.S. inhabitants. Census data determines how many Congressional representatives each state gets and the number of votes states get in the Electoral College and is used by federal, state, and local governments to allocate funding for programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, the National School Lunch Program, emergency preparedness, and many other vital services. A recently leaked internal Census Bureau memo noted that a citizenship question would diminish “the quality of the census count” and be “very costly.”
The question is opposed by members of both parties, including 61 members of Congress; more than 160 Democratic and Republican mayors; six former Census directors who served in Republican and Democratic administrations; and 19 attorneys general, including Gov. Janet Mills, who signed on when she was serving as Maine’s Attorney General. Internal memos released in July under court order by the Commerce Department revealed that former presidential aide and white nationalist Stephen Bannon pushed for the citizenship question. The memos also proved Ross lied under oath in March 2018 to a House committee when he said that the Department of Justice requested the question be added. In summer 2018, the Commerce Department sought public comment on a number of proposed changes to the Census, including the citizenship question. Of the 147,831 comments submitted to the Federal Register, 138,000 were in opposition to adding a citizenship question. In March of this year, Ross refused to testify in front of the House Appropriations Committee, prompting the committee and chair Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) to issue subpoenas in April for Ross and other Commerce Department officials. Ross also rejected a request to testify before the House subcommittee on Appropriations about the Commerce Department’s 2020 budget.
In April, a federal judge in Maryland blocked the Trump administration from adding the question, the third federal judge to do so. The Trump administration appealed and the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the case April 23. If the court sides with Trump, the only option would be for Congress to pass legislation blocking the move. There are currently two bills to address the issue, both introduced last year. The the 2020 Census IDEA Act (H.R.5359/S.2578) would prohibit the late addition of census questions without proper research and testing, the same rigorous process that all other questions must go through. Sen. Angus King is already a co-sponsor. The Every Person Counts Act (S.2580) would require that the Census include a count of the total number of persons in each state and block the Census Bureau from including any question or seeking information on individuals’ immigration status.
- Submit a comment to the Commerce Department opposing the census question via this ACLU form and learn more through their Census 2020 Project.
- Ask Sen. Collins and Representatives Pingree and Golden to cosponsor the 2020 Census IDEA Act.
- Ask Senators Collins and King to cosponsor the Every Person Counts Act.
- The Constitution says to count all persons – not all citizens.
- Maine depends on accurate census data for federal, state, and local funding for important programs, emergency preparedness, transportation planning, urban planning, and much more.
- According to the American Immigration Council, there were 44,694 immigrants (foreign-born individuals) living in Maine in 2015, comprising 3.4% of the state’s population. Although more than half are naturalized citizens, the Trump administration’s targeting of naturalized citizens for deportation may lead many citizens not to participate in the census.
- 5,334 people in Maine—including 1,517 born in the United States—lived with at least one undocumented family member between 2010 and 2014.
- Undocumented immigrants in Maine paid an estimated $4.4 million in state and local taxes in 2014. Their contribution would rise to $5.5 million if they could receive legal status.
- Inaccurate census data could affect “apportionment” of every state’s congressional representation and representation in the Electoral College and Maine relies on the census to draw legislative districts for the Maine House and Senate and county commissions.
- Citizenship data is already collected through the American Community Survey, so a citizenship question on the Census is unnecessary and not an accurate way to collect this data.
- The citizenship question is untested by the Census Bureau, which spent the past 8 years testing questions slated for inclusion on the 2020 Census.