How Supreme Court Rules On Census Citizenship Question Matters



While other stories, like the fallout from the Mueller report, or whether former Vice President Joe Biden pulls the trigger on another presidential run, will likely dominate news coverage, another critical story may fly under the radar. On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in Department of Commerce v. New York, a case that will decide whether a question about citizenship will be included in the 2020 Census.

The roots of the case stem from the announcement in March 2018 by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross that the next Census form would include a question about whether each person being counted is a U.S. citizen. It was not a groundbreaking move. In fact, inquiries about a person’s citizenship had been asked of all respondents up until 1950. A decade later, the Census questionnaire had a question about place of birth and the long form included a citizenship question until 2000.

Democrats have been apoplectic for months. Earlier this month, a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing devolved into political theater after Ross declined to appear before the panel.

Democratic presidential candidate and California Sen. Kamala Harris tweeted over the weekend that simply asking the question represented a “blatant attempt to suppress immigrant families from being counted in our nation,” adding that Congress should act to “ensure the integrity of the Census is protected.”

So, why does it matter and why are Democrats so opposed?

Two words: Money and power.

While it is certainly important to asking about citizenship to obtain an accurate sense of how many illegal aliens are in the U.S., what is of greater significance is that the data gathered is used to determine congressional districts and how much of the pot of federal funds each states get.

A 2018 Washington Post editorial offered a nice, succinct explanation of Democratic rage.

“The Census Bureau’s once-a-decade count of the country’s population determines where federal money goes and how political power is divided among states. Whether by design or incompetence, the Trump administration is threatening to rig the count against Democrats,” the editors wrote.

In 2009, Republican Sens. Michael Bennett of Utah and David Vitter of Louisiana sponsored an amendment to get a citizenship question added to the census form and while it failed, the issue did not.

Democrats have returned to their claim a citizenship question will dissuade illegal aliens from participating, thus resulting in an undercount among Hispanics. That is important to them because Hispanics tend to vote Democrat.

So nervous about the citizenship question resulting in a loss of voters, one of the very first bills introduced by Democrats in 2019 was the “Every Person Counts Act.”

In short, the bill would require that “the total number of persons” in each state be counted and it would prohibit any “information regarding United States citizenship or immigration status” from being elicited in the census.

Democrats also contend that the Census Bureau should make no differentiation between legal and illegal or citizen and non-citizen because, they say, the Constitution demands “every person” be counted. There is an important difference, however, between counting every person, including illegal aliens, and apportioning representation based on their presence.

Hans Van Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation, counters that the term “persons” has been interpreted in different ways.

For example, he wrote in 2009 that under the 14th Amendment’s due-process requirements, “corporations are included in the term ‘persons.’ I seriously doubt that those who argue that ‘persons,’ as used in the Census clause, includes all illegal aliens would also argue that corporations must be included in the count.”

The matter of Department of Commerce v New York may not be the sexiest story, but the ramifications of the Supreme Court’s decision will be making headlines for years to come.

About Author

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Jennifer joined FAIR as Web Content Writer in 2017 and brings to the role extensive communications and media background. She began her career as a policy research analyst on multiple national and state political campaigns before entering journalism. In addition to spending over a decade writing for several broadcast and print news outlets, Jennifer directed communications strategy for a member of Congress and a military nonprofit.

5 Comments

  1. avatar

    Congress needs to get a grip on reality and update our immigration laws ASAP. Citizens need to stop sending the same thrives to Congress election after election. 90% have been there too long. It has become a good ole boys club. They lie cheat steal from we the people at every opportunity. We the people need to vote in new blood that respects citizenship and nationhood. This massive push for illegal immigration is meant to overwhelm our officials and destroy this nation’s sovereignty including individual rights. Anybody who votes for a Democrat will live to regret it when they have lost everything and are totally controlled by the new world order aka one world government. Please stop voting for incumbents.

  2. avatar

    The hypocrisy and lack of love and care of our country of so many millions of USA citizens, especially our so-called leaders, is beyond understanding. The insistence of democrats that noncitizens be counted, no questions asked about citizenship, is simply a blatant act against the interests of this country and of American citizens. It is beyond insane and self-destructive for a nation to deliberately allow noncitizens to impact its government. I understand that politicians running for office will tell any lies to get votes, but I cannot understand the ignorance of millions of citizens in not grasping that noncitizens are, once again, being valued above citizens.

  3. avatar

    There is no such thing as an undocumented immigrant. Immigrants respect our sovereignity and laws and follow all such laws in getting permission to come here and they have all documents necessary including a US green card. Undocument foreigners in, or coming to, our country are doing so illegally with NO respect for our sovereignity or our laws. They are simply illegal aliens, entering our country criminally, just economic opportunist migrants coming here to steal all they can of our material wealth for their own personal gain. They feel entitled to be given all we have because we have more, thry want it, and will enter our nation illegally, and will do anything including lie to get what they want. Illegal aliens and fake refugees/asylees have no stake in the USA and care nothing about the success or future of our country, nor about the horrendous costs of them being here to US citizens. They care only about themselves and getting theirs.

  4. avatar

    how do i know if i have been counted in the sensus or not or how many times my name may have been submited
    i remember eyons ago being asked a bunch of quesstions. i dpn’t see why illegals would want to participate anyways get real. illegals don’t want to call police if there’s a crime. seems being an illegal here is very risky, only those hiding would do it. Trump cann’t stop feeding the pigs fast enough, too much bogus id’s even attepted theft of my ss and my x ss. inside jobs and i know who did it. makes me wonder how many bogus off shore accounts by ‘federal reserves’ employees wouldn’t be hard being not audited nor accountable i can imagine a very large drain pipe out the back door. they need their rug pulled asap