Foundation Watch

The Great 2020 Census Hysteria


The latest action by the Trump administration to send the Left into conniptions is a question: “Are you a U.S. citizen?”

That question, currently being floated by the U.S. Census Bureau in reviewing its internal rules for the upcoming 2020 census, was revealed in a letter obtained by the left-wing group ProPublica from a Justice Department official to Dr. Ron Jarmin, acting director of the Census Bureau.

Since the story broke, the citizenship question has been called “a recipe for sabotaging the census” by NALEO, a left-wing Latino advocacy group. It will cause “a certain paranoia” in the minds of immigrants, said John Yang, president of Asian Americans Advancing Justice.

As usual, though, the hysteria isn’t warranted.

For one thing, asking people in America about their immigration status isn’t new. The Justice Department letter requests the Census Bureau “reinstate on the 2020 census questionnaire a question regarding citizenship” [emphasis mine] discontinued under the Obama administration for the 2010 census. Further, the Justice Department makes it clear that it wants citizenship information for the nefarious purpose of enforcing the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the landmark law that prohibits racial discrimination in voting:

These cases make it clear that, in order to assess and enforce compliance with Section 2’s [of the Voting Rights Act] protection against discrimination in voting, the Department needs to be able to obtain citizen voting-age population data . . . where potential Section violations are alleged or suspected.

One would expect left-wing groups to celebrate the Justice Department’s efforts to enforce the legislation created in large part due to the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement. Instead, the National Immigration Forum’s executive director claims that asking Americans about their citizenship is meant “to scare immigrants into not responding, which will make them less represented in redistricting.”

That last bit is important. The census is not only a measurement of who’s living in U.S. borders; it’s information the federal government uses to determine how many congressional seats states receive.

The implications for the American political map are massive. In April 2016, the Supreme Court ruled that illegal immigrants and noncitizens may be counted in congressional redistricting efforts, which occur every ten years following the census. In preparation for the battle over the 2020 redistricting efforts, left-wing groups like the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights have organized coalitions aimed at following up on this judicial victory with Census Bureau rules aimed at dividing Americans into racial categories.

As Heritage Foundation senior fellow Mike Gonzalez puts it,

Strong group identification is the lifeblood of the “progressive” project—which is why today’s U.S. immigrants and their descendants must not be allowed to embrace a simply American identity, as did previous generations of newcomers to these shores. New ethnic groups created in Washington are the building blocks of the progressive plan to transform America.

In October 2016, the Obama administration proposed two new Census Bureau changes: a category for people with ancestry from the Middle East or North Africa (MENA), and classifying Hispanics as a race. The addition of MENA would have been the first addition to the Census Bureau’s racial categories in decades, alongside white, black, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American. But while the U.S. Census is as old as the republic, Gonzalez notes, racial categories aren’t:

The system goes back only to 1977, when the Office of Management and Budget issued Statistical Policy Directive No. 15.

The groups were then jammed into the 1980 Census, with no input from voters. Science also didn’t get a vote: Bureaucrats conjured up pan-ethnic groups such as “Hispanics” and “Asians” with no basis in anthropology, biology or culture.

The nonprofit organizations colluding to pressure the Census Bureau into surrendering the citizenship question reads like a lineup of the professional Left. A January 10 letter by the Leadership Conference opposing the rule change was signed by 170 left-wing groups, including the usual (identity-driven) suspects:

The Leadership Conference itself is funded by an array of wealthy nonprofits on the Left. Documents show that, since 2000, it has received over $30.4 million from the MacArthur Foundation, the Ford Foundation, billionaire George Soros’ Open Society Foundations, the Gates Foundation, and others.

It’s joined by the Michigan Nonprofit Association (MNA), a 501(c)(3) which has received nearly $300,000 in grants from the Joyce and Ford foundations for Michigan’s redistricting efforts, according to financial filings. (It’s worth noting that the MNA is funded by a number of wealthy Michigan-based foundations that also support left-wing activism, such as the Kresge Foundation.) Crain’s Detroit Business reported in November that the W.K. Kellogg Foundation gave the MNA a three-year, $600,000 grant specifically to fund census “outreach” related to registering residents in the state’s urban centers.

This is troubling. By definition, congressional redistricting is a partisan exercise. Politicizing the nonprofit sector by using nonprofit groups to boost census figures is partisan—particularly when those groups are aiding only one party (in this case, Democrats) in key electoral states.

But while the future of the Census Bureau’s reinstated citizenship question remains uncertain, it’s clear that the Left’s work to promote identity politics through the census rules will continue.

For more on the Democratic Party’s plan to gerrymander America, see Organization Trends.

Watch our video on how gerrymandering has corrupted American elections here:

Hayden Ludwig

Hayden Ludwig is a Research Analyst at Capital Research Center. He is a native of Orange County, California, and a graduate of Sonoma State University.
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