Trump Is Fundraising Off a Question That Would Scare Immigrants Away From the Census

In an email, Trump’s reelection campaign denounced people fighting a census question on citizenship.

Census workers help Spanish-speaking residents of Caldwell, Idaho, fill out the 2010 census form. Idaho Press-Tribune, Charlie Litchfield/AP

The Justice Department is pushing for the 2020 census to include a citizenship question for the first time since 1950, a move civil rights groups say would “sabotage” the census and make immigrants afraid to respond. The Commerce Department, which oversees the census, has until March 31 to decide whether to approve the question, but President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign has just come out strongly in favor—and it’s already using the issue to raise money and score political points.

“In another era, this would be COMMON SENSE,” the campaign said in an email on Monday, “but 19 attorneys general said they will fight the President if he dares to ask people if they are citizens.”

In February, 19 Democratic attorneys general wrote to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to oppose the citizenship question. They wrote:

Adding a citizenship question – especially at such a late date in the 2020 Census planning process – would significantly depress participation, causing a population undercount that would disproportionately harm states and cities with large immigrant communities. This undercount would frustrate the Census Bureau’s obligation under the Constitution to determine “the whole number of persons in each state,”2 threaten our states’ fair representation in Congress, dilute our states’ role in the Electoral College, and deprive our states of their fair share of hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funds that are allocated in part on decennial Census data. Indeed, as the Census Bureau has itself previously explained, “any effort to ascertain citizenship” in the decennial Census “will inevitably jeopardize the overall accuracy of the population count.”

ProPublica reported earlier this month that John Gore, the acting attorney general for civil rights, was responsible for pushing for the citizenship question, in consultation with the leadership of the Justice Department. Senate Democrats wrote to Gore on March 15 and said they were “deeply troubled” by the request to add such a question, and they asked whether he had coordinated his letter with the White House. Vanita Gupta, a former head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, tweeted that the email by the Trump campaign was “direct evidence of the political agenda behind [the Justice Department’s] request that the census ask for citizenship status.”

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.