A debate in the Supreme Court is brewing over the way the nation counts and maps its population, especially in immigrant-dense places, which could have wide-ranging impacts on Immigration reform going forward. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority indicated that in the next 2020 census, they will allow the question to be asked whether or not someone is a US Citizen. This question that has never been asked of all the nation’s residents in the census’s 230-year history. The Trump administration argued in court that it needs to know the number and locations of non-citizens to better enforce the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The conservative judges on the Supreme Court seemed inclined to agree, although a senior Justice Department official conceded in a sworn deposition last year that the data was not actually required. Three federal judges who heard challenges to the citizenship question have said the administration’s explanation is not credible.
An obvious reason for the Trump administration pushing to include this question is to dissuade frightened non-citizens — both legal and illegal residents — from participating in the census, producing a lowball figure that would skew both federal money and political power away from urban areas and toward rural ones. Having to respond that you are not a US Citizen will make many immigrants very uncomfortable, especially if Trump continues to be President. Another factor with knowing the number and location of non-citizens is that it would allow states to exclude them from the population totals that are used after every census to redraw the nation’s political maps. Maps based only on the citizen population would reflect an electorate that is less diverse than the nation at large, and generally more favorable to the Republican Party.
If immigrant participation drops in the Census as many Republicans hope, It would push many non-citizens, undocumented or otherwise, further into the fringes of society and essentially deny representation to a whole class of people who are contributing to the country. Government funding and voting rights are essential and rely heavily upon full immigrant participation in the Census. Hopefully if the citizenship question is added to the upcoming census, immigrants will remember they still need to participate.