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Liz Peek: Why latest 2020 Census decision matters so much (and is outrageous on so many levels)

Liz Peek: Why latest 2020 Census decision matters so much (and is outrageous on so many levels)

Americans should be outraged. Ruling on a lawsuit filed by cities, states and immigrant activist groups against the U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman of the Southern District of New York has barred the Trump White House from asking about citizenship on the 2020 census. Why does it matter?

Because the census determines how hundreds of billions of dollars in federal programs are distributed, and how many seats in the House of Representatives and votes in the Electoral College each state is awarded. Those things should be decided by U.S. citizens, not people who are in the country illegally.

Not differentiating in the census count between people who are in the country legally and those who have no legal status means that our government will not accurately represent the citizenry of the country. Undocumented people are not allowed to vote in federal elections; they should not be represented in Congress, and they should not enhance the Electoral College status, and with it, the election influence of certain states.

If California, for instance, home to an estimated three million undocumented people, wants to spend its residents’ taxpayer dollars granting state aid to people in the country illegally, or to allow those individuals to receive work permits, which drives down wages for its citizens, its elected officials in Sacramento are free to make that decision and their voters are welcome to condone it. But they should not be allowed to make that choice on behalf of the country overall.

And California should not be rewarded for boosting its population numbers through the use of “sanctuary” or other policies that favor undocumented people. Roughly 6 percent of its population is illegal. California has 53 seats in the House, so three of those seats essentially represent people who do not vote, and who do not pay taxes. (This is why California filed a separate lawsuit to prevent the question being asked.)

Why should California have more representatives in Congress per citizen than a state like Maine, which has few people living illegally within its boundaries?

Accepting that undocumented persons should help determine a state’s representation in Congress is another step in the left’s drive to conflate legal and illegal immigration. This is the same tension that is inflaming the discussion over President Trump’s proposed border barrier today. In a “rule-of-law” country, the two are not the same. Democrats say they favor border security, but at the same time they offer undocumented people benefits and protections that attempt to erase the difference.

A question about citizenship has long been included in various surveys of the population, including the long-form census distributed to a portion of the country every 10 years, and the American Community Survey, conducted every year and sent to some 3-4 million households.

As the Justice Department pointed out in its response to Judge Furman’s ruling, “Not only has the government asked a citizenship question in the census for most of the last 200 years, 41 million households have already answered it on the American Community Survey since 2005.”

The Trump White House claimed that adding the citizenship question would help in enforcing the Voting Rights Act, but Judge Furman suggested there were other, less costly and less harmful ways of achieving the same end.

He also suggested that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had misrepresented the true purpose of adding the citizenship question, which the plaintiffs charged was racial discrimination. And he found that Ross had violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) by failing “to justify significant departures from past policies and practices.”

Ross’ announcement last March that the 2020 census would include the citizenship question sparked numerous lawsuits; this was the first decision to be handed down. Several other cases are ongoing and next month the Supreme Court will hear arguments about one aspect of the suit just decided.

Already the Supreme Court has played a role by deciding in favor of the White House that Secretary Ross could not be deposed in the case just decided. Most likely, the Justice Department will appeal Furman’s verdict, and the case in its entirety is expected to end up before the Supreme Court.

Though the judge ruled in favor of the plaintiffs who had charged violations of the APA, he did not find that Commerce had engaged in “impermissible discrimination.” However, the judge noted it was hard to make such a determination since Ross had not been deposed.

The real issue, however, is not whether asking about citizenship could diminish the response from undocumented people, as plaintiffs in this and other cases have alleged. The more important question is whether they should be counted at all.

Accepting that undocumented persons should help determine a state’s representation in Congress is another step in the left’s drive to conflate legal and illegal immigration. This is the same tension that is inflaming the discussion over President Trump’s proposed border barrier today. In a “rule-of-law” country, the two are not the same. Democrats say they favor border security, but at the same time they offer undocumented people benefits and protections that attempt to erase the difference.

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The Founders of our nation, who called for a census in the Constitution, could not have imagined that there would be a significant portion of the country’s residents who were not legal citizens. In Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution, they wrote, “Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several states which may be included within this union, according to their respective numbers. In that document they specifically barred including “Indians” in the count, because they were “not taxed.” Being “not taxed” meant they were not legal citizens.

The Founders’ intent is clear: representation accompanies taxation. The same guideline should rule today.

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