By Lauren Khine, Summer Times Staff Writer
The arduous process to immigrate to the United States ends with an oath. Individuals give up parts of their identity, renouncing any royal titles and allegiances to other groups. They pledge to “bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by law”, and to support the Constitution. It is their final step toward becoming a U.S. citizen.
Some people do not have the opportunity of an oath, leaving many in America undocumented or illegal immigrants. Historically, the United States Census forms have not included a question about U.S. citizenship, although the 1950 forms asked where people were born and if they answered outside the U.S., census workers followed up by asking if they were naturalized citizens.
But for the 2020 census the Trump Administration wanted to ask: Is this person a citizen of the U.S.? Critics opposing the question argued that the census data would be skewed and incorrect because of fear. It’s likely that illegal immigrants faced with the possibility of detention centers would avoid the census forms.
The census data is used to apportion state congressional seats and almost $700 billion in federal spending, and to accurately represent the population. Should noncitizens avoid the census forms, it is expected that states with large immigrant populations will receive less representation and funding. This means states like Texas and California may have representation based on the number of their citizens, instead of the numbers of their people. Health care resources, education, and transportation may be insufficient for the total population, and emergency response could be less effective because of skewed census data.
Democrats worry that whiter, rural areas, often populated by Republicans, would take funding and political power from Democratic-led areas. Proponents claim the citizenship question is to ensure illegal immigrant safety under the Voting Rights Act, a law that protects minorities’ access to the ballot box. Officials defended the inclusion of the citizenship question by mentioning discrimination issues, and their attempt to alleviate those issues in mainly immigrant communities. The plan is to ensure no dilution or marginalization of minority voters. As these claims are criticized for their minimal details, skeptics suggest the decision to include the citizenship question occurred before reasoning, implying an impromptu justification. As Chief Justice John Roberts said, the evidence “seems to have been contrived.”
Citing insufficient reasoning, the Supreme Court blocked President Trump’s first attempt to add the citizenship question on June 27. Later, Daniel Jacobsen, a former Obama White House counsel, announced on July 2 the government’s decision to print census forms without the citizenship question. Despite the original census form deadline of June 30, the debates about the controversial question have continued. After President Trump’s tweet supporting the addition of the citizenship question on July 3, U.S District Judge George Hazel called for an emergency phone hearing with a Federal Judge to discuss the administration’s plans. President Trump is expected to instruct the Commerce Department to include the question through a presidential memorandum.
The Department of Justice switched over the citizenship question case to Civil Division lawyers on July 7, albeit with no justification. Made up of both career and political appointee attorneys, the Justice Department has unsettled its legal team handling the case. A department official revealed that a lawyer from the department’s civil division, James Burnham would not lead the litigation team heading forward. It is speculated that a new legal team might better argue the administration’s latest stance on the issue. On Monday, Attorney General William Barr expressed his opinion. He said he sees a legal path in which the citizenship question can be added to the 2020 census, not mentioning details.
As of July 8, the citizenship question decision has yet to be determined.