Healey To Sue Trump — Again — Over Census Citizenship Question

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2018/03/27/healey-to-sue-trump-again-over-census-citizenship-question/


BOSTON — Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said Tuesday she plans to sue President Donald Trump’s administration over plans to reintroduce a citizenship question to the 2020 federal census.

“The Census is supposed to count everyone,” Healey said in a Twitter post Tuesday morning. “This is a blatant and illegal attempt by the Trump administration to undermine that goal.

“We will sue to ensure a fair and accurate Census that counts the people of Massachusetts.”

On Monday the U.S Department of Commerce announced it agrees with a December 2017 recommendation from the federal Department of Justice to revive the citizenship question, which last appeared on Census questionnaires in 1950 but still appears in sample population surveys.

The decision appears to be part of the Trump administration’s efforts to crack down on illegal alien voting.

“Having citizenship data at the Census block level will permit more effective enforcement of the VRA [Voting Rights Act],” the department stated in its announcement, which cited a memo released Monday by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

The deadline for submission of questions for the decennial census is Saturday. Ross in his memo noted that a citizenship question already exists on the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, a yearly query sent to 2.6 percent of the American population. According to the Justice Department, citizenship data obtained via the survey “are insufficient in scope, detail, and certainty to meet its purpose under the Voting Rights Act.”

By law, the list of decennial census questions is to be submitted two years prior to the decennial census — in this case, no later than March 31, 2018. Ross noted that his office reviewed three options — one which maintains the status quo, a second that involves adding the citizenship question from the survey to the decennial census, and a third which involves omitting the citizenship survey question and instead “using federal administrative record data that Census has agreements with other agencies to access for statistical purposes.”

Ross in his memo said he asked for a fourth option — one which combines the last two options — and added that the fourth option “would maximize the Census Bureau’s ability to match the decennial census responses with administrative records.”

The fourth option, which will now be contested in federal court, will combine data obtained from the Census’s citizenship query with “as many additional federal and state administrative records as possible to provide more comprehensive information for this population,” Ross wrote. 

The Census Bureau, according to Ross, would “use the two years remaining until the 2020 decennial Census to further enhance its administrative record data sets, protocols, and statistical models to provide more complete and accurate data.” 

Ross stressed that the data gleaned from the fourth option will be anonymous.

“For approximately 90 percent of the population who are citizens, this question is no additional imposition,” Ross wrote. “And for the approximately 70 percent of non-citizens who already answer this question accurately on the ACS, the question is no additional imposition since Census responses by law may only be used anonymously and for statistical purposes.”

According to Healey, the Census “is supposed to count everyone”;  Ross in his memo claims that “while there is widespread belief among many parties that adding a citizenship question could reduce response rates, the Census Bureau’s analysis did not provide definitive, empirical support for that belief.”

“I have carefully considered the argument that the reinstatement of the citizenship question on the decennial census would depress response rate,” Ross wrote. “Because a lower response rate would lead to increased non-response follow-up costs and less accurate responses, this factor was an important consideration in the decision-making process.

“I find that the need for accurate citizenship data and the limited burden that the reinstatement of the citizenship question would impose outweigh fears about a potentially lower response rate.”

Ross’s announcement also appears to have angered Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth William F. Galvin.

Galvin, according to a State House News Agency report, told lawmakers last month that such Census proposals are aimed at punishing states like Massachusetts, which boasts a growing number of cities featuring illegal-alien-friendly sanctuary policies.

“They are clearly setting us up for a shortfall in states such as Massachusetts with some of the policies that they’re considering and have already implemented,” Galvin said at the time. “I say nothing less than sabotaging it for states like Massachusetts.”

On Tuesday, Galvin issued a statement reiterating his earlier stance, calling it “nothing but a blatant attempt by the Trump administration to frighten minority groups away from being counted and to sabotage the 2020 Census.”

Galvin added that he supports Healey’s decision to take on the Trump administration in court.

Meanwhile, immigrant-heavy California has already filed a lawsuit:

Ross in his memo addressed potential challenges from the Golden State:

Stakeholders from California referenced the difficulty that government agencies faced obtaining any information from immigrants as part of the relief efforts after the California wildfires. These government agencies were not seeking to ascertain the citizenship status of these wildfire victims. Other stakeholders referenced the political climate generally and fears that Census responses could be used for law enforcement purposes. But no one provided evidence that reinstating a citizenship question on the decennial census would materially decrease response rates among those who generally distrusted government and government information collection efforts, disliked the current administration, or feared law enforcement.

Rather, stakeholders merely identified residents who made the decision not to participate regardless of whether the Census includes a citizenship question. The reinstatement of a citizenship question will not decrease the response rate of residents who already decided not to respond.