When Trade Minister Wilbur Ross last March announced that he added a question about American citizenship to the next full American census, it caused a series of criticism – and a wave of legal challenges by cities, provinces, states and groups of migrant rights. One of those challenges, brought by the New York Attorney General's Office, prompted a federal judge to block the addition of the demand. But the American Supreme Court may have the last word.
1. Why the reaction?
With the heated rhetoric of President Donald Trump in the air, critics say that a question about the status of citizenship on the 2020 census in the US might deter immigrants and non-citizens from completing the survey once every ten years was held. That would distort the count, diluting the political power of those who did not respond. The Trump administration calls this a fever dream and says that it must ask the question to help enforce Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which prohibits discrimination in election procedures.
2. Has the census asked about citizenship before?
Yes. The question "Is this person a citizen of the United States?" Or something like that was already part of the census in 1820. But it was considered less important because the waves of immigrants retreated to the American shores, and it appeared for the last time in the complete, ten-year survey in 1950. In 1970, thanks to political pressure, the question came back in the long survey that only some households were sent. From there, it migrated to the annual American Community Survey, which replaced the long form in 2005.
3. What is at stake?
Power. Census results are used to divide US congress seats, distribute the electoral colleges that determine the winners of presidential elections and distribute billions of dollars per year in federal aid to states and places. Census-driven changes in the US political map can give Democrats or Republicans an advantage for a decade or more.
4. What is the legal issue?
Whether the administration acted on the basis of a legitimate need for information about the non-migrant population or the desire to limit its voting rights. Ross, whose department includes the Census Bureau, initially said that he added the question after a request from the Ministry of Justice. Later he acknowledged that he had discussed the issue with immigration hawks, including Foreign Minister Kris Kobach, who was a member of the president's dissolved voter fraud committee, and former chief strategist Stephen Bannon of the White House. In his ruling on January 15, US District Judge Jesse Furman said that Ross's decision "fell short" in the study of relevant evidence and came to a conclusion supported by the Decree, in accordance with procedures and laws and the facts and reasons behind it are explained.
5. What is going on when the citizenship question is asked?
That the real goal is to discourage people living in immigrant communities from participating in the survey, fearing that federal agents can use their answers to target them or someone in their household, even if they are legally in the United States. In legal terms, opponents say that the decision to add the question is unconstitutional and arbitrary & # 39; used to be.
6. What does the government say?
That the issue of citizenship will improve the accuracy of the census and that statements about political motivation are based on "unrelated innuendos." As for how the question has come, the US says that internal discussion of such important matters is common and that the secretary of commerce has full control over the format and content of the census.
7. Does the Census Bureau share the identity of non-residents?
No. The agency would not pass on the name and address of a non-migrant person to, for example, immigration authorities. That is not to say that this is not a real fear among some Hispanics and other minorities, such as Asians, whose households have disproportionately non-residents, says William Frey of the Brookings Institution, an expert on census not involved. is with the case. Frey says that 14 percent of the American population lives in households with one or more non-residents.
8. How will the problem be solved?
Probably by the Supreme Court. In addition to the case in New York, there are others around the country, and the losers will almost certainly appeal. The Supreme Court allowed the New York lawsuit, but also intends to consider one aspect of the case, a request from the Trump administration to limit the scope of evidence that can be considered. Time is short. The department has already started planning for the 2020 count and says that it will print out the questionnaire once every ten years by mid-year.
Contact the reporter about this story: Chris Dolmetsch in the federal court in Manhattan on firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact the editors responsible for this story: David Glovin at email@example.com, Peter Jeffrey, Laurence Arnold
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