Trump Admits Census Citizenship Question Intended to Disenfranchise Hispanic Population
Granted it was Donald Trump speaking and he generally has no idea what he’s talking about on any subject. But still his comments during an impromptou press conference outside the White House Friday morning pertaining to the citizenship question he wants on the Census bear noting.
Last week the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the question could not be on the Census, mostly because Chief Justice John Roberts agreed the administration’s pretext for it — that it needs the question to help enforce the Voting Rights Act — was not believable. In his comments on Friday, Trump seemed to admit that in fact Roberts and everyone else who did not believe this rationale was correct:
“You need it for many reasons. You need it for Congress, for districting, you need it for appropriations. Where are the funds going, how many people are there, are they citizens, are they not citizens? You need it for many reasons.”
The comment about needing the citizenship question for districting is the tell here. Yes, the government will use the Census for redistricting based on the distribution of population counted, as it does every ten years. But the Constitution has always required that count to include even non-citizens. (Most infamously, the Constitution only counted slaves as three-fifths of a person, a situation not remedied until the Fourteenth Amendment was passed after the Civil War.)
Experts believe that asking a citizenship question will cause an undercount of Hispanics and Latinos, as that population has a greater number of noncitizens and undocumented living in the country. That means less representation for those groups in both Congress and state legislatures, even though even noncitizens still have constitutional rights that include representation in legislatures. Since Hispanics and Latinos tend to vote Democratic, obviously Republicans have an interest in diluting their representative power.
The question would also result in disproportionate power for white voters, even as the country’s demographics speed towards them becoming a minority. This was the express purpose of the citizenship question, as papers from a deceased Republican operative revealed when they came to light a few weeks before the Supreme Court issued its ruling.
Roberts did not cite this revelation specifically in his opinion. Rather, he invited the administration to try again with some other pretext that the Court could find constitutional. Which is what Trump has now ordered the Justice Department to do.
Whether the Chief Justice will care about Trump’s latest comments, which will surely be included in any brief opponents of the question will file if the case gets expedited back up to SCOTUS, remains to be seen. But they lay bare all of the disingenuousness in the argument, because Donald Trump cannot help saying the quiet part out loud.