The New York Times: Documents Show Political Lobbying in Census Question About Citizenship

By Liz Robbins and Katie Benner
11 June, 2018

Commentary by Francois Crépeau: “Another example of a firewall which allows undocumented migrants to be counted, and thus authorities to have better information regarding their numbers and location, especially local authorities who need to provide inclusive policies towards the undocumented population inside their community in order to avoid social warfare. The United States are the only country with relatively accurate data about undocumented migrants, thanks to a census mechanism which is unconnected to ICE databases, a disconnection which is actively advertised during the census campaign in order to incite undocumented migrants to come forward and be counted (federal grants to cities and States are based on the size of their population). Asking in the census a question about their citizenship risks creating fear of detection and retaliation, which would result in undocumented migrants not showing up for census, thus reducing the accuracy of statistical data concerning them. Fantasies and stereotypes (“we are being overrun”, “this is an invasion”…) would increase and policies would suffer. One could cynically argue that this is the real objective of populists: being able to say whatever fantasy goes through their mind on such migrants, and remain uncontradicted for lack of reliable data.”

Documents released in a lawsuit attempting to block the inclusion of a question about citizenship in the 2020 census show lobbying by anti-immigration hard-liners for the question’s inclusion, and resistance on the part of some census officials to asking it.

The Kansas secretary of state, Kris W. Kobach, who has taken a strong position against illegal immigration and was appointed by President Trump to a now-defunct panel on voter fraud, had advocated to include the question directly with the secretary of commerce, Wilbur Ross, according to the documents. In a July 2017 email to an aide to Mr. Ross, Mr. Kobach said that he had reached out to the secretary a few months earlier “on the direction of Steve Bannon,” then the White House chief strategist.

In an email to Mr. Ross, Mr. Kobach urged the addition of the question, saying that including undocumented immigrants in the decennial count of the United States population would, among other things, lead to the problem “that aliens who do not actually ‘reside’ in the United States are still counted for congressional apportionment purposes.”

The documents were released by the Justice Department late Friday night in response to a federal lawsuit from the attorneys general of 18 states aimed at blocking the inclusion of the question, which was added to the census questionnaire in March.

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