Newspaper column: Census should ask about citizenship

Ignorance is not bliss.

Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have sued in an effort to block the 2020 Census from asking about citizenship status, claiming the question will prompt illegal immigrants to not respond and thus result in an undercount of population. That, they say, could result in the loss of congressional representation and federal funding for states, such as California, that have large immigrant populations.

According to the 14th Amendment, “Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed.” That’s the whole number of persons, not just citizens.

The stakes for Nevada are also high.

According to a Pew Research report, in 2012 Nevada’s population included 7.6 percent illegal immigrants, its workforce was 10.2 percent illegals and its school enrollment included 17.7 percent whose parents are not in the country legally. All of those levels were the highest in the nation and climbing.

According to estimates posted by the Census Bureau in July, fully 19.3 percent of Nevada residents were foreign born. Fully 27 percent of Californians were foreign born. The problem is that there is no accurate number for how many of those have attained citizenship or legal residency.

The citizenship question was asked up until 1950 and is still asked on the more detailed American Community Survey that goes to about 2.6 percent of the population each year.

The Census Bureau explains why the citizenship and place of birth questions are on the long form: “We ask about people in the community born in other countries in combination with information about housing, language spoken at home, employment, and education, to help government and communities enforce laws, regulations, and policies against discrimination based on national origin. For example, these data are used to support the enforcement responsibilities under the Voting Rights Act to investigate differences in voter participation rates and to enforce other laws and policies regarding bilingual requirements.”

Those who oppose asking about citizenship status do so under the purely speculative supposition that non-citizens will spurn the census entirely, ignoring the fact the Census Bureau is legally bound by strict confidentiality requirements. It may not share individual data with ICE, the IRS, the FBI, the CIA or anyone.

Additionally, refusing to comply with the Census can result in a $100 fine and providing false data can result in a $500 fine, though reportedly no one has been fined since 1970.

Nevada Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto railed, “This decision trades the accuracy of a census designed to provide complete count of the entire nation’s population for a political win for President Trump. This is a direct attack on immigrant populations that could lead to undercounted and underfunded minority districts across the country. It is an assault on our representative democracy and our Constitution which requires a complete and accurate count of everyone living in the country, no matter their citizenship status.”

Nevada Rep. Jacky Rosen, a Democrat running for Republican Sen. Dean Heller’s seat, said the citizenship question “politicizes the census and drags its integrity into question. It’s clear that the Trump administration is looking to ensure Nevada’s immigrant communities are underserved and underrepresented for the next decade.”

The mostly Democratic-majority states that are suing over the Census question about citizenship are claiming the knowledge will somehow dilute minority representation, but the opposite is the case.

A Wall Street Journal editorial recently pointed out, “The progressive critics are also missing that Commerce says the Justice Department requested the citizenship question to continue a longtime progressive policy: to wit, enforcing Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits voting practices that discriminate by race. Justice supposedly needs detailed data on citizen voting-age population by census block, which the American Community Survey doesn’t provide.”

Hans von Spakovsky explained in an essay penned for The Heritage Foundation, “Citizenship information collected in the 2000 census was vital to our efforts to enforce the Voting Rights Act when I worked at the U.S. Department of Justice. When reviewing claims of whether the voting strength of minority voters was being diluted in redistricting, it was essential to know the size of the citizen voting age population.”

So it certainly seems that the self-styled progressives are ignoring the facts, the statistics and the well-being of those they claim to wish to protect.

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

8 comments on “Newspaper column: Census should ask about citizenship

  1. Anonymous says:

    I’m wonder which part of the 14th Amendment authorizes the census to ask any question unrelated to numbers?

    Guess I’m more of an originalist that some folks.

    Perhaps next census, should the democrats be in charge of Congress, a question about numbers of guns, types, and locations of said guns will further some made up interest (seriously Hans? “Voting Rights”? You really must be kidding)

    While all the “conservatives” out there cheer, what their missing is that WHEN masses of non-citizens don’t answer the census, leaving the states those conservatives live in with fewer federal dollars, they will be adversely affected. Less money for public schools (because there are still going to be non citizens attending those schools, just less money because they will not have been counted) and this reduced federal spending won’t be limited to schools, it will affect every area where federal money is distributed on the basis of numbers; courts,roads, etc. So all conservatives in the areas are doing is advocating against themselves.

    But that seems to make conservatives quite happy nowadays doesn’t it? They cheer while the agency charged with protecting this country’s environment is dismantled and national institutions are attacked and weakened, all because “it makes democrats unhappy”.

    Seems dumb to me but hey, that probably is just another badge of honor so ok.

  2. Vernon Clayson says:

    Anonymous speaks of federal dollars as if they appear out of thin air, the federal dollars come from individual taxpayers that have damned little to say with what the cabal of thieves in Washington do with it. States, schmates, Washington rules,

  3. Bill Shuster says:

    Once again we have a bunch of schmucks in DC, 2or more from Nevada that don’t see the difference between IMMIGRANTS and LEGAL IMMIGRANTS! ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT have no rights to vote, as well as to be here! Icouldn’t care less if they wouldn’t fill the censuses out if the fines were enforced. By not filling them out, they are lying by means of failure to fill them out (exclusion of truth) as well!

  4. Rincon says:

    This whole argument is ridiculous. Illegals with any brains don’t stick their neck out by identifying themselves for the census anyway. If they do end up having to be counted, all they have to do is lie and say they’re legal. The information gathered is completely useless, unless the goal is to entrap illegals in some way. The idea is harmless though, until the administration tries to use the information to catch the dreaded illegals, which I predict they will.

  5. Anonymous says:


    I wonder if you figure my idea is equally “harmless”?

    In a census to come, a question regarding the numbers, types, and locations of all guns be added?

    I wonder whether 2nd amendment types would see this question as harmless? I wonder if they have any “constitutional” objections?

    Not really though.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Perhaps Hans Von Spanovsky should take a read and learn why what he justified under some fiction was really happening. “Voting Rights”. That’s just funny.

    “The daughter of a late GOP strategist has begun releasing documents belonging to her father that were involved in the lawsuit over the White House’s push to add a citizenship question to the U.S. census.

    Stephanie Hofeller, the daughter of redistricting strategist Thomas Hofeller, started uploading the documents Sunday onto a website entitled The Hofeller Files. These documents have been cited as evidence of Thomas Hofeller’s role in the efforts to include the question and used to question the administration’s motives behind the citizenship question.

    Stephanie Hofeller, who was estranged from her father, obtained the computer documents after his death in 2018, NPR reported. After receiving a court order, she provided them to Common Cause, the advocacy group that sued Republican state officials in an effort to change state district maps that her father drew, but not without first copying the documents. ”

  7. Anonymous says:

    I’m shocked to find out that the administration who won a single demographic in their last campaign (uneducated whites) would have failed to count all those other demographics known to vote overwhelmingly for the other party.


    “The 2020 census continued a longstanding trend of undercounting Black people, Latinos and Native Americans, while overcounting people who identified as white and not Latino, according to estimates from a report the U.S. Census Bureau released Thursday.”

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