House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is freaking out over President Donald Trump’s decision to include a question regarding citizenship on the 2020 census — and she’s demanding legal action to stop it.
“The Trump administration’s late night announcement of a new citizenship question violates the clear constitutional mandate to provide an accurate count of all people living in the United States,” Pelosi said in a prepared statement.
She insisted that adding a question about whether the person taking the test was a U.S. citizen was “disturbing” and an attack on “vulnerable communities.”
Pelosi’s hysterical freakout over a simple question is based on mistruths and lies, critics say.
Every single census in the United States dating back to the early 1800’s — except for 2010 — have included citizenship questions in one form or another. It’s just common sense, they say.
“According to Ben Weingarten of the London Center for Policy Research, the citizenship inquiry appeared on the long-form version of the questionnaire from 1970 to 2000, when approximately one-in-six households were mailed this more detailed document,” Townhall reported.
That’s because the population count, a massive effort taken every 10 years, is far more than an academic exercise. It’s required by the Constitution and used to determine the number of seats each state has in the House as well as how federal money is distributed to local communities. Communities and businesses depend on it in deciding where to build schools, hospitals, grocery stores and more.
In other words, the political stakes of counting illegal immigrants or non-citizens as legal U.S. citizens is very high. The Department of Commerce has stated that the inclusion of the question is essential to successfully enforcing the Voting Rights Act. Despite this, California quickly sued to stop it’s inclusion.
Political experts have pointed out that blue states with slowing population growth or high numbers of illegal immigrants such as California, New York, Illinois, and Massachusetts are at risk of losing U.S. House seats when their congressional districts are redrawn in 10 years — depending on how fully their residents are counted.
California struck quickly, with Attorney General Xavier Becerra filing a federal lawsuit Tuesday that seeks to block Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’ decision to add a citizenship question in 2020. Officials from New York and New Jersey, also Democratic-led states that critics say would lose power if legal citizens were accurately counted, were also planning on leading or participating in lawsuits.
The Justice Department said in a statement it “looks forward to defending the reinstatement of the citizenship question, which will allow the department to protect the right to vote and ensure free and fair elections for all Americans.” The Commerce Department said the benefits of obtaining citizenship information “outweighed the limited potential adverse impacts.”
Their argument in essence: Enforcing voting rights requires more data on the voting-age population of citizens than current surveys are providing.
Some Republican lawmakers hailed the decision on Tuesday. GOP Sens. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Ted Cruz of Texas had sent a letter to the Commerce Department asking Ross to add the question.
“It is imperative that the data gathered in the census is reliable, given the wide ranging impacts it will have on U.S. policy,” Cruz said in a press release issued by the three lawmakers. “A question on citizenship is a reasonable, commonsense addition to the census.”
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The Census Bureau separately conducts an ongoing survey called the American Community Survey that provides citizenship data on a yearly basis. But it only samples a small portion of the population.
Before that, citizenship or related questions were asked of about 1 in 6 households on the census “long form,” which has since been retired.
Alabama Attorney General Steven Marshall said the American Community Survey is so small, with a correspondingly large margin of error, that it is an ineffective tool for understanding lightly populated rural areas of the country.
“It just makes sense that government has a more accurate record for the census and reinstates the practice of including a citizenship question in the next census,” Marshall said.
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A joint fundraising committee for Trump’s re-election campaign and the Republican National Committee highlighted the addition of a citizenship question in a fundraising pitch last week. The pitch said Trump wants the 2020 Census to ask people whether or not they are citizens, and that in another era, this would be common sense.
“The President wants to know if you’re on his side,” the solicitation asks.
Census counts are taken by mail and by workers walking neighborhoods. The Census Bureau says the 2010 census drew a massive response, with about 74 percent of the households mailing in forms and remaining households counted by workers in neighborhoods.
Information is only released publicly in the aggregate, although the government has the details.
The Census Bureau states on its website that personal information obtained through its surveys cannot be used against respondents by any government agency or court. And the disclosure by an employee of any information that would personally identify a respondent or family can lead to up to five years in prison or a fine of $250,000, or both.
The Associated Press contributed to this article