TAMPA, Fla. — For the first time since the 1950 decennial census, the 2020 census will include a question on a respondent’s citizenship status.
The Trump administration enunciated some worrying plans for the 2020 census when Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross testified before the Senate in 2017 that he wanted census data to be “strategically reused” by other government departments and the private sector.
The inclusion of a citizenship question in the 2020 census and the willingness of Ross and Trump to “re-use” census data for other purposes, including informing the Department of Homeland Security and its Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents where pockets of non-citizens are located — right down to 9-digit zip code addresses — is worrying.
Federal law prohibits sharing census data with other government agencies. For those who believe census data abuse cannot happen, it should be noted that it has already occurred — and quite recently — in the United States.
In 2004, DHS requested 2000 census data on Americans of Arab descent, right down to the 9-digit zip code level, that is, individual street addresses.
By sifting through such census data, DHS was able to calculate where the Arab-Americans lived, according to individual ancestral homelands of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Palestine and Morocco as well as “other Arab nation” or generic Arab descent.
Using 1940 census data, the federal government rounded up some 120,000 Japanese-American citizens for internment during World War II.
Given the jingoistic and xenophobic hateful rhetoric emanating from Trump, other high-ranking officials and Republicans in Congress, the interest of Trump’s Census Bureau in collecting citizenship information can only have a malevolent intent.
The official reason given by the administration — that Attorney General Jeff Sessions requires citizenship data, so the Justice Department can adequately enforce the Voting Rights Act by determining who is eligible to vote — is laughable on its face.
Nothing in Sessions’s shameful record in Alabama of opposing civil rights and voting rights suggests he has had some sort of “sudden awakening” and now wants to assist African-Americans and other minorities to exercise their constitutional franchise.
Nor does Donald Trump’s repeated false statements claiming “millions” of non-citizens voted illegally in the 2016 election add any legitimacy to the inclusion of the citizenship question.
States and cities are right in fighting the Trump Administration’s unconstitutional citizenship question in federal court. At least seventeen states have filed lawsuits against the citizenship question. Former Census Bureau directors, in both Republican and Democratic Administrations, have cautioned against asking about citizenship.
It is amazing that many conservatives, who constantly argue for a strict interpretation of the U.S. Constitution, are willing to tamper with the framers’ original intent regarding the census.
Article 1, Section 2 of the United States Constitution specifically states, an “Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of Ten Years.”
Enumeration, in this context, means a head count of the people living in the United States. The framers were not interested in citizenship status but wanted a clean headcount of people.
The name Jacques Fauvet is not known to many Americans. However, in France, Fauvet was known for perpetually warning against the misuse of census data.
Fauvet, who oversaw French data protection from 1984 to 1999, pointed out that when the German Nazis took over France in 1940, one of the first acts of the Gestapo was to seize as many detailed census records as possible.
From these records, the Nazis were able to construct their lists of who would be arrested and deported to the concentration camps in the east. Enough said!
Wayne Madsen is a progressive commentator whose articles have a appeared in a wide range of American and European newspapers. Readers may write him at 415 Choo Choo Lane, Valrico, FL 33594.