by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Court watchers seem to think that the Supreme Court will end up overturning a lower court ruling and allow the Trump administration to add a citizenship question on the 2020 Census.
The New York Times, for example, led its coverage of the arguments on Tuesday by saying: “The Supreme Court’s conservative majority seemed ready on Tuesday to allow the Trump administration to add a question on citizenship to the 2020 census, which critics say would undermine its accuracy by discouraging both legal and unauthorized immigrants from filling out the forms.”
Let’s leave aside the newest euphemism for illegal immigrants. (Immigrants who are here illegally are “unauthorized”? Does that mean bank robbers can say they’re just making an “unauthorized withdrawal”?)
The practical case against adding a citizenship question falls apart once you start looking at it.
Here are the main arguments:
Asking about citizenship has no place in the census.
Except, it’s always been a part of the census, until 2000. Up until 1950, in fact, it was included on the census form sent to everyone. After that, the Census Bureau continued to ask about citizenship on the so-called long form, which went out to a subset of households.
The government still asks about citizenship in its American Community Survey, which replaced the long form and is an annual survey that goes out to more than 3 million people a year.