• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal

CounterPunch needs you. piggybank-icon You need us. The cost of keeping the site alive and running is growing fast, as more and more readers visit. We want you to stick around, but it eats up bandwidth and costs us a bundle. Help us reach our modest goal (we are half way there!) so we can keep CounterPunch going. Donate today!
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Why the Census Shouldn’t Ask About Citizenship

We’re all used to chaos in Washington these days. Amidst it all, there’s one little protocol change that could mean the undoing of our democratic process: the Commerce Department’s decision to ask people whether they’re citizens in the upcoming 2020 census.

Where I live, in New York City, we have over 3 million people who were born outside the United States. Most people I know are either immigrants, or remember their parents or grandparents telling stories about entering the country. In this way, the Big Apple is a microcosm of our vast and dynamic country.

Just how vast and dynamic? That’s determined every 10 years in a nationwide collection of data called the census.

The census is used in part to determine the allocation of federal funds for programs across the country. That includes things like Medicaid, the National School Lunch Program, Highway Planning and Construction, and Head Start.

The concern is that many immigrant families may be afraid to answer the census if it asks about citizenship. If that happens, it could threaten programs all Americans rely on.

For example, Head Start relies on census data to determine how many children are eligible for and use the program. If the government scares immigrant families away from the census, community-serving organizations that use federal Head Start dollars will get less money. We’ll end up with an underclass of people who are less able to participate in our society.

The census is also the basis for redistricting congressional seats every 10 years. If there’s an undercount in your region, it means you’ll get less representation in Congress.

Thus, it’s imperative the census accounts for everyone. Unfortunately, the current administration disagrees.

Since the 1880s, census data has been confidential, with the government forbidden to use any data collected against anyone. This was codified by Congress in 1954.

But under this White House, many immigrants are hesitant to trust that these policies will continue to be enforced. With ICE deporting immigrants with no criminal history and longstanding ties in the United States, they’re justified in their distrust. The citizenship question only justifies this paranoia.

These changes were ostensibly undertaken to help enforce the Voting Rights Act, which the administration has refused to enforce in every other context.

The real motive is to discourage immigrant communities from participating in the census — and therefore give more weight to other, whiter areas. The areas that are “Great Again” — where everyone has the same skin color, and everyone speaks with the same accent.

Members of Congress, former census officials, civil rights organizations, business owners, and attorney generals have all voiced their opposition to including citizenship questions. They see the administration’s motivations for what they are — political.

One more seat in the House of Representatives for Utah and one less for New Jersey can make a really big difference for a lot of people. A lack of voter information on Hmong communities in Minnesota can make voting a struggle for tens of thousands of citizens.

We shouldn’t allow such maneuvering to compromise our democracy.

The jobs of the census is to count how many people live in your area, and therefore how many resources it needs. It shouldn’t be concerned with how they got there or what their citizenship status is.

If we cannot do that well with the citizenship question in the surveys, then it should be removed.

Morris Pearl is chair of the Patriotic Millionaires and the former managing director of BlackRock, Inc. 

More articles by:

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

May 22, 2019
T.J. Coles
Vicious Cycle: The Pentagon Creates Tech Giants and Then Buys their Services
Thomas Knapp
A US War on Iran Would be Evil, Stupid, and Self-Damaging
Johnny Hazard
Down in Juárez
Mark Ashwill
Albright & Powell to Speak at Major International Education Conference: What Were They Thinking?
Binoy Kampmark
The Victory of Small Visions: Morrison Retains Power in Australia
Laura Flanders
Can It Happen Here?
Dean Baker
The Money in the Trump/Kushner Middle East Peace Plan
Manuel Perez-Rocha – Jen Moore
How Mining Companies Use Excessive Legal Powers to Gamble with Latin American Lives
George Ochenski
Playing Politics With Coal Plants
Ted Rall
Why Joe Biden is the Least Electable Democrat
May 21, 2019
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Locked in a Cold War Time Warp
Roger Harris
Venezuela: Amnesty International in Service of Empire
Patrick Cockburn
Trump is Making the Same Mistakes in the Middle East the US Always Makes
Robert Hunziker
Custer’s Last Stand Meets Global Warming
Lance Olsen
Renewable Energy: the Switch From Drill, Baby, Drill to Mine, Baby, Mine
Dean Baker
Ady Barkan, the Fed and the Liberal Funder Industry
Manuel E. Yepe
Maduro Gives Trump a Lesson in Ethics and Morality
Jan Oberg
Trump’s Iran Trap
David D’Amato
What is Anarchism?
Nicky Reid
Trump’s War In Venezuela Could Be Che’s Revenge
Elliot Sperber
Springtime in New York
May 20, 2019
Richard Greeman
The Yellow Vests of France: Six Months of Struggle
Manuel García, Jr.
Abortion: White Panic Over Demographic Dilution?
Robert Fisk
From the Middle East to Northern Ireland, Western States are All Too Happy to Avoid Culpability for War Crimes
Tom Clifford
From the Gulf of Tonkin to the Persian Gulf
Chandra Muzaffar
Targeting Iran
Valerie Reynoso
The Violent History of the Venezuelan Opposition
Howard Lisnoff
They’re Just About Ready to Destroy Roe v. Wade
Eileen Appelbaum
Private Equity is a Driving Force Behind Devious Surprise Billings
Binoy Kampmark
Bob Hawke: Misunderstood in Memoriam
J.P. Linstroth
End of an era for ETA?: May Basque Peace Continue
Weekend Edition
May 17, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Trump and the Middle East: a Long Record of Personal Failure
Joan Roelofs
“Get Your Endangered Species Off My Bombing Range!”
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Slouching Towards Tehran
Paul Street
It’s Even More Terrible Than You Thought
Rob Urie
Grabby Joe and the Problem of Environmental Decline
Ajamu Baraka
2020 Elections: It’s Militarism and the Military Budget Stupid!
Andrew Levine
Springtime for Biden and Democrats
Richard Moser
The Interlocking Crises: War and Climate Chaos
Ron Jacobs
Uncle Sam Needs Our Help Again?
Eric Draitser
Elizabeth Warren Was Smart to Tell FOX to Go to Hell
Peter Bolton
The Washington Post’s “Cartel of the Suns” Theory is the Latest Desperate Excuse for Why the Coup Attempt in Venezuela has Failed
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Analysis of Undecideds Suggests Biden’s Support May be Exaggerated
Peter Lackowski
Eyewitness in Venezuela: a 14-year Perspective
Karl Grossman
Can Jerry Nadler Take Down Trump?
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail