(ThyBlackMan.com) The Department of Justice is requesting an addition to the 2020 census form that could have wide ranging effects, changing everything from how congressional seats are apportioned to how federal funds are distributed. DOJ has asked the Commerce Department, which oversees the census process, to add a question about immigration status.
Questions about immigration status have not been asked since the 1950 census. And in today’s hostile environment towards immigrants, there is much concern that this type of question may cause lower response rates, resulting in a severe undercount in certain geographic areas. As several former Census Directors said, “The sum effect would be bad census data. And any effort to correct for the data would be futile.” Urban metropolitan areas would be the most effected. The majority of undocumented immigrants live in 20 metropolitan areas around the country like New York City and Los Angeles with an estimated 1 million and another million for the Houston and Dallas areas.
Non-citizens, who cannot vote, are counted along with citizens for purposes of divvying up federal funds, determining how many congressional seats each state gets and drawing district lines for state and local offices. An undercount in urban areas would result in a loss of congressional representation and a diminished share of the $675 billion the federal government distributes annually.
The mandate for the decennial census is found in Article 1, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution. Ironically, this is also the section that codified the “three fifths compromise” where enslaved people were counted as “other persons” to satisfy the slaveholding states who wanted their slaves counted for the purpose of gaining seats in the newly formed House of Representatives.
Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3 of the Constitution reads:
“Representatives and Direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included in this Union, which shall be determined by adding the whole number of free persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other persons.”
By allowing enslaved people to be counted in the census, even though they obviously had no rights as citizens, Southern States gained disproportionate representation in Congress that lasted until the Civil War. In 1900, because of Jim Crow laws that prevented black people from voting, there was a move by Northern States to apportion representation based on the eligible voting population. Southern States voted to block that move.
Now the situation has flipped. These same Southern States, and Republicans in general, now want to apportion representation based on the eligible voting population and not count undocumented immigrants and other non-citizens for this purpose. In states like Texas, this would benefit rural (Republican) areas and harm urban metropolitan (Democratic) areas where most immigrants live. Let’s not forget Jeff Sessions, the current head of the Department of Justice, is the former Senator from Mississippi.
There is one other ominous aspect to this argument taking place about immigration. The current discussion about immigration is not based so much on legal versus illegal status anymore as Peter Beinart recently pointed out in his article in the Atlantic, thus the ‘Dreamers’ have support to stay. This administration is more keenly focused on country of origin, religious and ethnic/racial background. Immigrants from Norway being more welcome than those from “shithole” counties in Africa, the Middle East and the Caribbean.
This is another example of a reversion to an earlier time in American history where the United States employed laws like the Chinese Exclusion Act and the 1924 Immigration Act to keep “undesirable” immigrants out. This administration has even gone so far as to remove language stating that America is a “nation of immigrants” from the mission statement of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Even though Trump’s mother was an immigrant and Melania, an immigrant herself, got her parents into the country through “family reunification”, pejoratively renamed “chain migration”, policy.
Taken together, voter I.D. (suppression) laws, gerrymandering (drawing electoral boundaries for political purposes) and now attempts to change who gets counted in the census represent no less than a direct assault on our democracy by changing a basic tenet of how the game has been played since the country’s founding: everyone living in the U.S. gets counted. Talk about a “rigged system”. We can’t allow it and anyone currently representing us not fighting loudly and wholeheartedly against all of this needs to be turned out of office, and replaced with someone who will. The decision on the “immigration question” for 2020 is due by the end of this month.
Staff Writer; Harry D. Sewell