Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross appears before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to discuss preparing for the 2020 Census, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017. The Trump administration acknowledged on Thursday that billions more dollars are “urgently needed” to ensure a fair and accurate count during the 2020 Census. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
The decennial census is upon us. In 2020, the U. S. Census Bureau will send out a flurry of questionnaires followed up by battalions of enumerators to try to achieve a moderately accurate count of every human living in the United States. The import of this undertaking can’t be overstated. But the Holy Grail of the Census is reallocating House seats and, inside of states, redistricting.
Yesterday, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross announced that he had decided to add a question about citizenship to the 2020 Census. It doesn’t ask if you are here legally or illegally, only if you are a citizen or not.
To say that Democrats lost their sh** is to be modest about the effect.
#BREAKING: Filing suit against @realdonaldtrump's Administration over decision to add #citizenship question on #2020Census. Including the question is not just a bad idea — it is illegal: https://t.co/vW8sa7khq9
— Xavier Becerra (@AGBecerra) March 27, 2018
Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein, Kamala Harris, Catherine Cortez Masto, Brian Schatz and Tom Carper had said such an announcement would “undermine the accuracy of the Census as a whole” and was even more troubling given the Justice Department’s immigration rhetoric.
After the announcement, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) accused the administration of trying to politicize the constitutionally required practice.
“The federal Census is NOT a tool to rally the President’s base. It’s a constitutionally mandated count of every single PERSON living in this country,” he wrote on Twitter, touting his legislation that would prohibit the bureau from adding a citizenship question.
Holder said there was no valid reason for the decision.
“Make no mistake — this decision is motivated purely by politics,” he said.
Why is California, in particular, upset? They will barely hang onto their current number of representatives (53). With a little bit of bad luck, they could lose a seat because the current population estimates predict the Bay Area and Los Angeles losing population. What is less known is to what degree the loss in those areas is leaving the state.
So what is Becerra’s argument? It is based on an assumption that immigrants will not respond in sufficient numbers to the Census and, therefore, will not be counted, and therefore this is a plot by the Evil Genius Trump to deprive California of its rightful place at the public teat. And Becerra knows he’s not talking about green card holders, who are very likely to comply with the Census, but illegal aliens which beef up the headcount in California and give disproportionate political power to a districts with a lot of illegals (think about it, if you are in a district with a lot of illegals, your vote is actually worth more than if you are in a district composed of 100% citizens).
Here’s a mischievous way for President Trump to get back at pesky California: Ask people in the 2020 census whether they’re U.S. citizens.
Then the president can chortle if immigrants who are here illegally duck away from participating in the population count.
That would be a laugher for Trump because without a maximum head count in California, the feds would need to spend less money in the state on grants and subsidies. Maybe $2.1 billion less each year for a decade until the next census. Total it up: $21 billion.
Even sweeter for Trump, this deep-blue state very likely would lose some political juice — specifically one U.S. House seat and, thus, one presidential electoral vote.
Do I believe Trump would cynically slap a citizenship question on the census questionnaire to scare off undocumented immigrants and hurt California politically? You bet.
His argument is bogus. The citizenship question was a regular feature of the Census up until 1960. The citizenship question has been a part of the rolling survey, the American Community Survey, for several years and the response rate on that has not suffered. Plus, if people don’t fill out the Census form, they get a visit from an enumerator and if they won’t answer the door, the enumerator will ask neighbors about the number of people living at an address.
Were I handicapping this, I’d say that Becerra wins in district court and probably in the Ninth Circus based on his fictitious scenario but gets his ass handed to him by the Supreme Court. The citizenship question will get asked. And the sun will come up the next day, just like always.