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Free Minds & Free Markets

Will a New Question Scare Illegal Immigrants Away from the Census?

When the idea of measuring the United States' population every 10 years was first codified, the mission was pretty straightforward: Tally up the "Number of free Persons" living in each state so that seats in the U.S. House of Representatives can be apportioned accordingly.

Many things have changed since then, not least the definition of "free persons." But the primary directive of what has come to be known as the Census has remained the same. Until now.

On March 26, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced that the decennial survey in 2020 will for the first time in 70 years ask all respondents about their citizenship status. Ross made that call despite warnings from six previous directors of the Census Bureau that doing so would place the "accuracy" of the study at "grave risk," due to the likely increase in nonresponses among households and communities with heavy concentrations of illegal immigrants.

"It is simply inconceivable to me there would not be a very high level of anxiety around that question," former director Vincent Barabba (1973–76) told Mother Jones. It's "beyond comprehension at this point. It would be really bad."

Confronted with such concerns, Ross made a remarkable admission: The risk of increased headcount inaccuracy is worth it. "Even if there is some impact on responses…the citizenship data provided to [the Department of Justice] will be more accurate with the question than without it," he wrote in an explanatory memo, "which is of greater importance than any adverse effect that may result from people violating their legal duty to respond."

In other words, a secondary or even tertiary purpose of the Census is now more important than its original constitutional mission.

What does the Justice Department have to do with survey questionnaires, anyway? The official story is that Attorney General Jeff Sessions et al. are eager to collect more comprehensive data so that they can better enforce the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which aimed to prevent states and localities from interfering with African Americans' suffrage. Yet Sessions repeatedly characterized that law as "intrusive" during his confirmation hearings, and since then federal enforcement actions have ground to a near halt.

In a memo to Ross, the Justice Department correctly pointed out that information gleaned from the Census—which measures every household—is far more robust than the bureau's monthly American Community Survey (ACS), which instead samples about 2.6 percent of the population each year. Since the ACS has been inquiring about citizenship since its inception in 2005, supporters of the 2020 change want to know: What's the big deal about asking a question that's already being asked?

One answer is that each additional question, regardless of content, increases the nonresponse rate. The ACS, which includes more than 50 questions, came into being as a replacement for the "long-form" Census, which until 2000 was sent to about one-sixth of households. Why was it killed? Because people's tendency to ignore it skewed overall results, thereby degrading the Census' original purpose.

The other obvious answer is that illegal immigrants have good cause to fear the consequences of being honest about their status, particularly under a Trump administration that has been sending immigration enforcement agents to places such as courthouses. Census field researchers have cited "unprecedented" fear this time around that the information may be used for deportation. Given the bureau's tawdry past—it helped identify Japanese Americans for internment during World War II and draft dodgers for prosecution during World War I—such fears are hardly far-fetched.

Mission accomplished, counter supporters. Sen. David Vitter (R–La.), when introducing a bill to mandate that the Census ask a citizenship question in 2009, argued that "states that have large populations of illegals" are being "rewarded" through Census-derived reapportionment. Here we have arrived at a motivation more plausible than a late-breaking concern for the Voting Rights Act.

Giving California more representation in the U.S. House of Representatives by counting its population of illegal immigrants can certainly feel wrong. But feelings and constitutionality are separate things. As National Review legal analyst Matthew J. Franck noted in 2010, "Voting rights are not and never have been the relevant consideration in counting population for congressional representation."

What do you do when you don't like the results but can't change the formula? Adjust the inputs. It's crude, and doing it in the name of minority voting rights is especially galling, but that's where we are in 2018.

Photo Credit: Joanna Andreasson

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  • El Oso||

    Yeah, and what about us ex-pats?

  • El Oso||

    No, gives a big sigh of relief...

  • ||

    I am constantly amazed at the number of expats that use absentee ballots. I am not just talking about residents who are temporarily abroad but many who have lived overseas for years.

    Some of them appear to have organized themselves into clubs on both sides of the divide, if news reports at election time are to be believed..

  • El Oso||

    Not this bear, and I have been an expat for a long, long time.

  • JesseAz||

    Those teenagers spending their allowance want a vote!

  • markm23||

    Except that slogan was not only omitted from the Constitution, but it established "virtual representation" - the 3/5 compromise allowed slaveowners to cast votes for their slaves, although at 40% off. Many states only allowed property owners to vote; the rest were subject to taxes on their whiskey and other things, but could not vote on this. None of the states allowed women to vote, but they weren't free of taxes, either.

  • ||

    None of the states allowed women to vote,...


    Actually, one did.

    The New
    Jersey Constitution of 1776 enfranchised not only men who met the
    property requirement but women as well. The specific language:
    [A]ll inhabitants of this Colony, of full age, who are worth fifty
    pounds proclamation money, clear estate in the same, and have
    resided within the county in which they claim a vote for twelve
    months immediately preceding the election, shall be entitled to vote
    for Representatives in Council and Assembly; and also for all other
    public officers, that shall be elected by the people of the county at
    large.


    However, your

    it established "virtual representation" - the 3/5 compromise allowed slaveowners to cast votes for their slaves, although at 40% off.


    is possibly the best and most concise explanation of "the 3/5 compromise" I have ever seen. I congratulate you, sir.

  • ||

    Unfortunately for the women of New Jersey, "the right was rescinded in 1807." (from the link I quoted from above).

  • John C. Randolph||

    I'd say it allowed them to vote against their slaves, but other than that, you're right.

    -jcr

  • AlmightyJB||

    Count tax returns instead of doing census?

  • gaoxiaen||

    The Census should scare everyone. Don't reply. It's just gov't phishing.

  • Juice||

    It sounds so much better without the "without representation" part.

    No taxation without representation without without representation.

  • Rogers1234||

    Taxation with representation is overrated

  • Z565||

    Is lying and cheating with the expressed intention to rig the census lawful?

  • Garth Bigelow||

    Hey, leave Hillary out of this.

  • Nardz||

    It's worked for California

  • TangoDelta||

    Iv'e been doing it for many decades. In the '80s I was Egyptian-American but I was a Native American when the '90s rolled around. For the '00s I went full tilt multi-racial and counted my cat who is a Russian Blue so naturally Asian-American. Oddly for the '10s I married a Chinese woman so I did the only thing I could and said she was South African. I think this time around we'll put down Inuit-Congalese-Cambodian-American simply because it's getting too complicated.

  • TangoDelta||

    Duh - I've - where's spellcheck when you want it?

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    You could get around the original requirement for the census by instead having every representative proxy the votes in their last election. Suppose each district represents (150M votes / 435 seats) or about 350K votes (I am just making a rough guess on total votes last election). All deviations would adjust automatically; no need to realign districts every ten years. One benefit would be encouraging voting, because isn't that the stated civic goal, to get everyone to vote? So they say.

    I'd throw in some variations. The biggest would be that you'd send three reps for each district, and each would proxy just the votes they personally received. This would lessen the hold of the two party system. I would also send a fourth rep from each district, randomly chosen from everyone who checked a box on the ballot, who would proxy all remaining votes; that would really shake up the old fossils in Congress. To keep the 435 seats instead of quadrupling it, just expand districts accordingly, and then you'd want to make them truly federal and have district boundaries ignore state, city, county etc. borders.

    Then allow anyone owning property on the border of two districts to switch districts, if the new district has fewer voters. That would tend to equalize district sizes naturally.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    No, actually you can't. The Supreme court has already ruled, and rightfully, that the term "actual enumeration" means, roughly, real count. You're not allowed to do anything other than count people. You can ask other questions, but, constitutionally, once every ten years the federal government is required to actually count everybody.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    Sorry I was not more clear. I know my scheme is flagrantly unconstitutional. What I meant was you could get around the original rationale for the census.

  • Don't look at me.||

    No matter what the law is or what the rules are, those in power will cheat in order to stay in power.

  • gaoxiaen||

    Trudat.

  • Napoleon Bonaparte||

    The object of the census is to apportion representatives. Given that illegals are, um, here illegally, they aren't entitled to representation. What's the problem?

  • SimonP||

    The problem is legal. You can't ignore how the Constitution says you're supposed to do the "enumeration" by declaring that only citizens matter. The Constitution just says to base it on "free persons."

    Anyway, why shouldn't undocumented residents matter for apportioning representatives? They may not get a "say" in how they're governed, but their impact on our communities and the nation doesn't disappear if we just ignore them. If a representative has a lot of undocumented residents in his district, that would certainly affect the kinds of policies he'd want to pursue, wouldn't it?

  • Marcus Aurelius||

    For that matter, why not just subcontract prisons from other countries into your district. Raise the number of persons you govern, while keeping them locked up. Bring a citizen doesn't matter, just a headcount (and that 'free' clearly has a different connotation).

  • Longtobefree||

    I know that plain english does not matter, but prisoners are not free.

  • JoeBlow123||

    "Anyway, why shouldn't undocumented residents matter for apportioning representatives?"

    Heh. This debate has become so insane. Not only can citizens no longer object to new people arriving, the places these people arrive to that overwhelmingly lean progressive are rewarded with a larger share of the national hammer to dictate how citizens must live.

    Fucking nuts.

  • SimonP||

    Is it less insane to give more power to citizens to control the lives of people who live and work in their communities, but can't vote?

  • JoeBlow123||

    I live in Japan and I cannot vote or determine the shape of their politics here. I am a foreign national, a resident alien. Albeit a legal resident alien.

    I bring this up because yes, it is insane to give non-naturalized illegal immigrants any political power to hammer their political opponents with.

  • Ariki||

    A state that can attract illegals gains more power. Therefore the state has incentive to create an environment attractive to illegals.Which means that illegals DO have power over how the state behaves.

    Your "overall" bullshit is just you not wanting to admit your wrong.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    A state that can attract illegals residents gains more power. Therefore the state has incentive to create an environment attractive to illegals residents.

    There, FIFY

  • SimonP||

    Undocumented immigrants don't have any political power, under the system of apportionment that is constitutionally mandated. What we have, instead, is a political process that acknowledges their existence, ideally with the result that our national policy will reflect their existence in a realistic way. Not necessarily a way that serves them or provides benefits to them, but a way that doesn't force us to pretend that reality is otherwise.

  • JoeBlow123||

    "What we have, instead, is a political process that acknowledges their existence, ideally with the result that our national policy will reflect their existence in a realistic way."

    So in essence the citizens living in areas with heavy illegal immigrant populations has, to pick an arbitrary number, one and three fifths the voting power as citizens with no illegal immigrant population. A tried and tested solution.

  • BigT||

    Um ... the Senate is the Great Compromise enshrined in the Constitution, the House is the great rip-off.

  • Get To Da Chippah||

    That 'problem' is largely fixed if senators return to being selected/appointed/whatever bu each state's government as opposed to being required to be elected by popular vote. House Representatives were to be the representatives of the People, which is why there are more, and determined by population, while Senators were to be the representatives of the States, which is why there are fewer and each state has the same number.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    Do you need the purpose of the senate explained to you? Your commentary indicates you probably do.

  • VinniUSMC||

    Hihn's commentary indicates that he needs a great many things explained to him. Unfortunately, you can only lead a horse to water.

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    Dumbfuck Hihnsano actually believes Wyoming has more political power than California.

  • OneLoneLibertarian||

    That's not what he said.

    >"The number for California is actually 1.06 times, in the House.
    In the Senate, California has the same number of Senators at 39 million people, as Wyoming with 600,000, so the Wyoming voter has 65 times the power as a Californian"

    Wyoming's voters obviously have much more power, since each state gets two Senators.
    I believe he was ridiculing the hysteria about including non-citizens in apportionment. And he proved it.

  • Napoleon Bonaparte||

    The problem is legal. You can't ignore how the Constitution says you're supposed to do the "enumeration" by declaring that only citizens matter. The Constitution just says to base it on "free persons."

    How about we get a legal definition of "free persons"? Illegals are people who aren't in custody only by virtue of not having yet been taken caught. I strongly suspect when Madison wrote "free persons", he didn't have criminals on the lam in mind.

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    "I strongly suspect when Madison wrote "free persons", he didn't have criminals on the lam in mind."

    At the time of the founding there were no restrictions at all on immigration, we had completely open boarders. The idea that someone could be a criminal simply by their presence in our country would have been even more inconceivable to Madison than the idea that a criminal on the lam would count as a free person.

    If you want the census to be restricted to counting citizens for the purposes of allocating House seats, you need to amend the constitution to do it.

  • JesseAz||

    They kind of needed a population to exploit the resources of America at the time. It doesn't mean it should go on forever. There have been immigration laws on the books for over a century, Chinese Exclusion Act, for example.

    Likewise your assertion that Madison didn't understand governing immigration laws is quite literally idiotic. He fully understood nation states and the movement of people. He was for vast amounts of immigration because of the numerous amounts of resources to utilize and understood population versus resource. That ratio has changed however.

  • ||

    At the time of the founding there were no restrictions at all on immigration, we had completely open boarders[sic].


    In fact, the Declaration of Independence specifically complains that:

    "He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands."

    In fairness to the British, however, they adopted their policy to appease the Indians who complained among other things about the tendency of European illegals to "steal their land, murder their men and rape their women". The Indians for some reason got pissed of about these things and developed a habit of striking back thus making the British government send soldiers to suppress such uprisings.

    To add insult to injury, the colonists then bitched about paying the "fair share" of the costs to keep this huge military presence in their provinces.

    Goddamn freeloaders, what can you say.

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    "I strongly suspect when Madison wrote "free persons", he didn't have criminals on the lam in mind."

    At the time of the founding there were no restrictions at all on immigration, we had completely open boarders. The idea that someone could be a criminal simply by their presence in our country would have been even more inconceivable to Madison than the idea that a criminal on the lam would count as a free person.

    If you want the census to be restricted to counting citizens for the purposes of allocating House seats, you need to amend the constitution to do it.

  • Nardz||

    At the time Madison and the founders wrote the Constitution, the US didn't exist west of the Mississippi. So, I guess no representation for those living there now without an amendment

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    The constitution covers the creation and therefor congressional representation for new states.

    Changing who is to be counted by the census is a different matter.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    And now we get to the point where the immigration restrictionists cite the "Living Constitution" hypothesis for their views.

    We see time and again that the restrictionists just cite one leftist argument after another in order to justify their views. It's almost as if they are just as much collectivists as people on the left are.

  • Nardz||

    And now we get to the point Jeff out and out pretends he's not a progressive... then puts his progressivism on full display by arguing against his own delusion.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Jeff pretends he is not a progressive. Conservatives pretend they are libertarian. Right-wingers pretend they are not bigots. Republicans pretend fairy tales are true.

    Cue this site's soundtrack.

  • gimmedatribeye||

    If I am a bigot, so what? Is it because I'm not a card-carrying LGBT ally? OMG! The horror! What do you care? You're just going to have to get used to it.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    What a shock, Jeff spewing another garbage summary of things that in no way reflects reality. What you call immigration restrictionists are people that believe in the rule of law, and the constitution as written.

    Stop lying.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    What you call immigration restrictionists are people that believe in the rule of law, and the constitution as written.

    Uh huh. So answer this: if a policeman drives by a Home Depot and sees a bunch of Mexican-looking men loitering out in front, what should the policeman do in your opinion?

  • Elias Fakaname||

    Execute his duties as codified by the the prevailing state and local jurisdiction he is sworn to uphold.

  • Robert||

    Why wouldn't non-convicted criminals be free persons?

  • SimonP||

    Well, it's clear that you'll believe whatever the fuck you want, so why don't you just make it up as you go?

  • Longtobefree||

    It is just a 'common sense' regulation to ignore the crooks on the run. It is not like the constitution means what it ways or anything.

  • Vernon Depner||

    Any ambiguity was eliminated with 14A

    Yes, it was. "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside." Illegal aliens are neither born here nor naturalized.

  • Vernon Depner||

    The issue is apportionment based on the number of citizens. As you said and then contradicted, the 14th Amendment clarifies that.

  • Mock-star||

    Hihn is correct here.

  • Rogers1234||

    I agree. But we are not bound by what Madison had in mind, we are bound by what he wrote

  • Brett Bellmore||

    You just have to declare that, since illegals are here despite our laws saying they can't be here, they're obviously not "subject to the jurisdiction" of the US. And thus should be treated the same way diplomats, tourists, and invading soldiers are.

  • Vernon Depner||

    Don't give them ideas...

  • Vernon Depner||

    Then shouldn't we be counting diplomats, tourists, and invading soldiers? If not, why not?

  • Vernon Depner||

    And no diplomat distinction. No tourist distinction. No "resident" distinction. No invading soldiers distinction. You are indulging in special pleadings.

  • Vernon Depner||

    The word "resident" appears only in Section 1, which you have repeatedly said makes it irrelevant to this question.

  • hello.||

    You are indulging in special pleadings.

    You give Mikey far too much credit. He is just a stupid old piece of shit whose senile dementia only exacerbates his longstanding mental infirmities.

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    The number of diplomats is too small to make a difference and in any case, they are concentrated in DC, which is not a state, nor is it in any state.

    The census, per the constitution is done only every 10 years.

    The total number of foreign tourists at any one time is unlikely to be enough in any one state to make any significant difference. We are exceedingly unlikely to be faced with a significant surge in tourists in the middle of a census.

    The odds that we would be dealing with an invasion in the middle of a census is small, and would likely result in the census being delayed until the invasion was repelled (and it would be moot anyway if the invasion was successful).

    These objections are insignificant.

  • Vernon Depner||

    Section 2 of the 14th Amendment, which you have claimed settles this matter, refers only to "the whole number of persons", with untaxed Indians being the only exception. You admit there are other exceptions not explicitly stated—but only the ones YOU allow. Exceptions brought up by anyone else that you don't like are not allowed because...uh...well, they're different. As I said, a special pleading. You have failed to make a logical case against excluding illegal aliens based on the 14th Amendment.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    Diplomats are distinguished. The others don't count as they are not legal residents of the US.

  • Rogers1234||

    Tourists are subject to our laws while here

  • Joe_JP||

    They are "persons" and it makes sense to count them since overall the representatives in Congress are there to handle the interests of "persons" in their district,including those who don't vote. Children don't vote either. In fact, back in the days, slaves were partially counted. They too were "persons" according to the Constitution.

  • Vernon Depner||

    Illegal aliens have no legitimate interest in the acts of Congress. Their wishes should NOT be represented in Congress.

    Remember that it was the PRO-slavery faction among the Founding Fathers that wanted slaves counted as persons for the purpose of representation. NOT counting the slaves was the ANTI-slavery position. Allowing them to be counted at only 3/5 of their numbers was a partial victory against the pro-slavery side.

  • Joe_JP||

    Undocumented persons are persons and have interests. If one is murdered, federal prosecutions might occur. The federal government doesn't fail to prosecute because they are undocumented. Documented status is also often in flux. It is unclear what will occur over the decade of a census.

    Slaves were persons. If they were uncounted as non-persons, that would have benefited the argument they were mere property. But, minimal as it might have been, even slave owners realized slaves were persons, not mere property on the level of cattle. The 3/5 Compromise reflected that as did other things such as slaves being tried in court, at times even having the right to a lawyer. Again, being persons.

    The count benefited slave owners but even many non-slaveowners realized you had to take them into consideration. An earlier proposal factored in output of persons and it was thought slaves were less productive so would be counted less. The result was a compromise.

  • Earth Skeptic||

    Most people on the left demand some form of gun registration, so we can, um, just know where the guns are.

    Seems only reasonable to at least count the illegal residents, so we, um, just know how many live here.

  • SimonP||

    It'd be easier to count them, um, if you didn't so readily demonstrate how easily cooperation with any counting or tracking function of the federal government can lead to your summary deportation.

  • Marcus Aurelius||

    Shocking, shocking, that people in the country illegally would not want to be treated as such.

  • SimonP||

    I guess that I take the view that most people are just trying to live their lives with a minimum of governmental interference. It would appear you take the view that state mandates should have a more pervasive presence in our lives.

  • JesseAz||

    "I guess that I take the view that most people are just trying to live their lives with a minimum of governmental interference."

    Which country is this in?

  • JesseAz||

    Please cite one instance of a census return leading to the arrest and deportation of an illegal immigrant. Hint... there are other forms with the "are you a citizen" question and it has never been used to deport.

  • JesseAz||

    " Hint: those other questions are not protected by the Constitution"

    The constitution doesn't protect any questions on the Census dimwit. The question of citizenship has previously been on the census. Do you specialize in ignorance? See 1950 and 1960. Granted the liberal media has tried to explain these away, but the questions still existed.

  • hello.||

    It is true you don't follow the liberal media. Salon Mother Jones HuffPo Democratic Underground and DailyKos where you get your talking points are whacked out fringe lunatics. It is nice to see you recognize how far off the deep end you are.

  • Robert||

    How has the definition of "free person" changed?

  • Eidde||

    It hasn't, he should have said that there isn't a population of "other persons" to count 3/5 of.

  • Vernon Depner||

    Finish the phrase: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof..."

  • Vernon Depner||

    Including tourists, diplomats, and invading soldiers? If not, why not?

  • Vernon Depner||

  • Get To Da Chippah||

    14th Amendment, Section 2:

    2. Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice-President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.

    Where is the explicit exception for diplomats, foreign tourists, invading soldiers, etc.? The only explicit exclusionary clause is in regards to 'Indians not taxed'. If you are suggesting some implicit exclusion of those other groups of persons, then why can illegal immigrants not be added to that list?

  • Get To Da Chippah||

    Where does the 14th Amendment, Section 2 say "Residents"?

  • Get To Da Chippah||

    Why would it have to?

    Because it's a legal document, and laws are supposed to be clear and explicit in their wording and meaning. The text in question says to count 'the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed'. It says nothing about residency. MatthewSlyfield's response merely indicates that it's been traditional to ignore the plain wording of the phrase, not that there is any specific instruction written into law limiting the census to counting only residents. He's correct that the census should also not count anyone who lives in Washington D.C., despite all of them still being U.S. residents. Do you agree?

  • Get To Da Chippah||

    I explained why it would have to.

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    "Where is the explicit exception for diplomats, foreign tourists, invading soldiers, etc.?"

    There isn't one. However the practice from the very first census has been to count residents.

    However that said: Diplomats and tourists are too few in number to matter one way or the other and diplomats are heavily (though not exclusively) concentrated in DC, which is neither a state nor part of a state.

    "counting the whole number of persons in each State"

    Technically no one in DC counts for the official census.

    As for invading soldiers, an invasion would more likely than not result in the census being postponed until after the invasion is repelled as it would be too dangerous for census takers in an active war zone. And if the invasion is successful, the census under the US Constitution won't happen at all.

    There's no exclusion to these categories, because there is no real point to doing so.

  • BigT||

    And why not the dead? Are the dead non-persons?

    Chicago is ahead of the curve.

  • Vernon Depner||

    What about fetuses? Shouldn't they be asking if the women in the home are pregnant?

  • Robert||

    Doesn't "free persons" still mean non-slaves? I don't see how "free persons" are any more or less free than before.

  • Eidde||

    "Giving California more representation in the U.S. House of Representatives by counting its population of illegal immigrants can certainly feel wrong. But feelings and constitutionality are separate things."

    The census should be limited to "counting the whole number of persons in each state, excluding Indians not taxed." (Amendment XIV, Sec. 2) The only other relevant census-related information is about adult male law-abiding citizens whose right to vote has been abridged (this ideally causes a loss of representation, though this part hasn't been enforced).

    So the only relevant questions are whether you're an untaxed Indian, whether you're living in the state, and if a law-abiding adult male citizen, whether your voting rights have been abridged.

    Obviously, they've added plenty of other questions to the Census, a libertarian pet peeve.

    And if the immigration statutes are constitutional, then if a state illegally increases its representation by giving "sanctuary" to illegals, then there ought to be a remedy, which would be enforcing the immigration statutes.

    "...under a Trump administration that has been sending immigration enforcement agents to places such as courthouses."

    Going to courthouses in search of lawbreakers? The Dreamers should have nothing to fear, since they're not in court, they're busy being valedictorians.

  • Longtobefree||

    But feelings and constitutionality are separate things

    Certainly true. But what's the point?
    Feelings that assets can be taken without even accusation, let alone conviction is enough to overturn the fourth amendment.
    Feelings that scary looking guns should not be allowed is enough to overturn the second amendment.
    Feelings that someone might say something that challenges my prejudices is enough to overturn the first amendment.

  • Duelles||

    With a non response from illegals maybe there will be fewer electoral votes for CA, NY or other sanctuary states. A good thing for this Republican Administration. No?

  • JoeBlow123||

    "Giving California more representation in the U.S. House of Representatives by counting its population of illegal immigrants can certainly feel wrong. But feelings and constitutionality are separate things."

    How can anyone write something like this and not see how ridiculous it is? So an individual in California is granted proportionally more voting rights than people in other states with less illegal immigrants and that is ok?

    Does this sound nothing like the 3/5ths Compromise?

  • Napoleon Bonaparte||

    Giving California more representation in the U.S. House of Representatives by counting its population of illegal immigrants can certainly feel wrong. But feelings and constitutionality are separate things.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x3SxEOvAOEg

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Meh, you're already pretending to be "legal" so just fib to the census taker. Extraconstitutional mission creep is creepy anyway.

  • Jerryskids||

    But the primary directive of what has come to be known as the Census has remained the same. Until now.

    An enumeration is simply a headcount. The Census hasn't been a simple headcount for as long as I've been alive, it's 99% statistics-gathering for all kinds of other crap the government shoves in there because hey, why not, as long as we've got you here and you're required to answer our questions why not take advantage of the opportunity? Kind of the way when a cop pulls you over it's a convenient time to run a dog around the car so he's got a plausible pretext to conduct a warrantless search. Some people might argue that the real reason you were stopped wasn't because you stopped at the light 3 inches past the white line but simply for the opportunity to conduct the search, but it's not an argument that's going to win in front of a judge.

  • John C. Randolph||

    The Census hasn't been a simple headcount for as long as I've been alive,

    It is for me. I don't give them any more information than that.

    -jcr

  • Longtobefree||

    How about the 'common sense' approach that only those persons who care enough about their rights to take positive action should be counted? So just count the carry permits, and be done with it.
    All those other questions are just to do free market research for corporations anyway.
    The 'official numbers' are 'adjusted' by congress anyway, to be sure that all the goodies are distributed 'fairly' (as in my guys get the most).

  • AlmightyJB||

    "people's tendency to ignore it"

    Didn't think that was supposed to be an option.

  • Jerryskids||

    Last time I answered a census they wanted to know how many toilets I had in my house. I just assumed there was a bill before Congress giving toilets the right to vote, but now I'm worried they're considering sending my toilets back to Mexico where they came from.

  • MichaeI Hihn||

    No one's coming for your toilets. If you like your light bulbs, you can keep your light bulbs. And a third thing that I can't remember, about cold medication.

  • John C. Randolph||

    That kind of question merits a response along the lines of "not without a warrant, motherfucker."

    -jcr

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Another spirited meeting of Libertarians For Authoritarian, Bigoted Big Government . . .

  • MichaeI Hihn||

    I suspect it's not that you're 100% wrong, it's that you're a smarmy Chad about it. Or, to put it another way, hello fellow human, since being a proper tit when we're of a mind seems to be our nature. Smarmy Chad is my Halloween costume this year.

    It's comments such as this that make me think your goal here may not be to be as obnoxiously uncivil as possible, you've simply given up on being heard. Because you aren't necessarily, utterly wrong here - there's a kernel here of a good discussion on the chains that rest lightly - that we don't even see, we're used to them, they've always been there, it's just how things are done.

    That sounds more interesting. To me; obviously 'interesting' is subjective as hell.

  • Kreel Sarloo||

    I like the sentiment but it has too much of a "Mr Kettle, allow me to introduce Mr Pot" vibe to it.

  • MichaeI Hihn||

    Exactly.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    I'll bet Arty would never have the balls to show up at a Reason convention. Nor Jeff or PB. Nothing but cowards.

  • hello.||

    Reason hosts tons of events and conventions at its LA headquarters and elsewhere including a Reason cruise you stupid old fuckwit.

  • Napoleon Bonaparte||

    To be blunt, I give no fucks about whether it's constitutional or not.

    The constitution has become like an old stately mansion that's deteriorated to the state where the only thing it's fit to house are the termites. And that's the only time I ever see the constitution invoked here, when it supposedly protects the so-called "rights" of illegal immigrants or some other freak show. The only thing it does for normal, productive citizens is prevent them from defending themselves against this kind of shit.

    It's time to burn that old stately mansion down, and destroy the termites with it.

  • Eidde||

    But no pun intended, this would pave the way for Bonapartism.

    And the better analogy would be burning the barn to roast the pig.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    "But the primary directive of what has come to be known as the Census has remained the same. Until now.

    On March 26, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced that the decennial survey in 2020 will for the first time in 70 years ask all respondents about their citizenship status."

    Way to contradict yourself from one sentence to the next. And I'm betting you didn't even notice.

  • hello.||

    When Matt is quoting the very information that contradicts what he said it is reasonable to assume he should have been aware of it. He's not 90 years old milking the taxpayers while he slowly dies of senile dementia and a brain tumor after all.

  • Homple||

    The question will scare away illegal migrants, as it damn well should. Regions heavy with illegals shouldn't get added representation because of them, nor should any other benefits be allocated based on population figures inflated by illegals.

    Take your open borders and shove them.

  • Homple||

    The question will scare away illegal migrants, as it damn well should. Regions heavy with illegals shouldn't get added representation because of them, nor should any other benefits be allocated based on population figures inflated by illegals.

    Take your open borders and shove them.

  • Homple||

    Also your squirrels.

  • Earth Skeptic||

    At least 3/5ths of them.

  • Paulpemb||

    Democrats haven't been this pissed off about the census since we tried to tell them they couldn't count their slaves, and for the exact same reason.

  • JoeBlow123||

    Haha.

  • SIV||

    They should have been counted as 5/5ths. Yankee progressives just didn't want to recognize them as fully human.

  • Joe_JP||

    Slave owners in general was upset at some people in the Constitutional Convention suggesting slaves not being counted, not just Democrats (or those who became Democrat, when that party was created) -- it is not like Southern slave owning Whigs didn't want their slaves counted.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    Conservatives: "How horrible it was that Obama weaponized an otherwise apolitical agency like the IRS to promote his left-wing agenda!"

    Also conservatives: "Hey this is a great idea, let's use the Census Bureau as a means to promote Trump's immigration agenda!"

  • Elias Fakaname||

    ByTtrumps immigration agenda, do you mean the rule of law?

  • hello.||

    Radical crypto-communists: "Hey this is a great idea, let's use the Census Bureau to collect urban planning information for Agenda 21 implementation and arrest people who refuse to answer"

    Also radical crypto-communists: "How horrible it is that Trump wants to bring back a citizenship question that appeared on the census until 70 years ago and is not used by law enforcement"

    It's almost like radical crypto-communists don't really give a fuck about anything but advancing their agenda.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    In an alternate universe, President Hillary Clinton instructed the Census Bureau, in preparation for the 2020 Census, to introduce a question about gun ownership in each household. "It's high time that we have some accurate statistics on gun ownership so that we can combat the rising tide of mass shootings, particularly at schools," she said. Republicans, on the other hand, believed that her ploy was just a ruse in order to force legal gun owners into a backdoor national gun registry under threat of punishment for refusing to answer the census questionnaire. They correctly noted that the Census in the past had been used for dubious purposes, such as during WW2 when Census data was used to facilitate rounding up Japanese-Americans and putting them into internment camps. Republicans in Congress introduced a bill, called the "Clean Census Act", which directed the Census Bureau to return to its constitutional roots and to only ask questions about number of residents in a household, and that's it. President Clinton was, of course, certain to veto such a bill.

  • John Rohan||

    One big difference. The citizenship question used to be asked in the census, and it's currently asked in the American Community Survey. There has never been a gun question.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    Oh Jeff, you do love your bullshit strawmen, and your false equivalencies.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    Let's assume for a moment that an undocumented immigrant is foolish enough to answer honestly on the Census form.

    Would you want the Census Bureau to share that information with ICE, and consequently, have this person deported?

  • Vernon Depner||

    The proposed census question does not ask whether people are here illegally. It only asks if they are citizens. Lots of non-citizens are here legally.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    Yes, I know. I asked specifically about if an undocumented immigrant did it.

  • Vernon Depner||

    If an undocumented immigrant answers the question, they are not confessing to being here illegally. The proposed question asks only if one is a citizen, not if they are here legally, which many non-citizens are.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    So, then would you want the Census Bureau to share this information with ICE, who would then presumably deport this person?

  • Vernon Depner||

    Why would they "presumably deport this person"? All they have reported is that they are not a citizen, not that they are here illegally.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    You're just dodging the question at this point.

    Yes or no: Do you want the Census Bureau to coordinate with ICE in order to find and deport undocumented immigrants? Yes or no?

  • Vernon Depner||

    The Census bureau has no information on who is or is not an undocumented immigrant, and would not even if the citizenship question was added, and no one has suggested such coordination, so your question (which I have not "dodged" because this is the first time you have asked it) is silly.

  • JoeBlow123||

    You raise legitimate points but man there comes a time where I just stop caring. I have reached that point. The whole federal and state government edifice is so rotten anyways, what are a few more rotten logs to pile on top?

    It's not like you or Welch or Gillespie care much about the rule of law either, unjust laws are made to be broken right? So who are any of us to pretend to care about the rule of law?

    In a perfect world though I agree, this rationale for this question is problematic.

  • hello.||

    In an alternate universe, chemjeff the radical crypto-communist applauds President Hillary Clinton's constitutionally dubious question that infringes on an enumerated constitutional right and also cheers during the resulting confiscation of firearms arguing that no one's rights are violated when reasonable gun restrictions are enforced. He still tries to draw a false equivalence between being asked about citizenship, which has appeared on previous censuses for hundreds of years and never resulted in a single deportation, and actual confiscation of firearms in violation of the 2nd amendment because chemjeff the radical crypto-communist is a piece of shit liar and propagandist.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    No really, keep it up. Every time I argue for libertarian beliefs while you harass me and call me a "communist" (lol) just makes you look like the deranged troll and lunatic that you are.

  • Agammamon||

    I'm not sure how this would ame a difference. Its certainly not a hill I'd want to die on.

    Let's face it, pro or anti, how many illegal immigrants do you think will fill out a census *without* that question?

    Heck, I'm a 'free person' *and* an American citizen and I've never filled one out.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    This is what I can't figure out, I kind of presumed their illegal immigration status was the thing that kept them from filling out a census form.

  • Ecoli||

    I think the FBI needs to embed some spies in the census bureau. Ya know, to protect them.

  • Rich||

    "Oh, very well. We'll just ask you to list the names and Social Security Numbers of all persons living at this address, even if this address is 'the streets'."

  • Agammamon||

    Sure

    John Yaya 404025643
    John Smallberries 404025644
    John Bigboote 404025645
    and
    John Careful Walker 404025646

  • Rich||

    "We'll let it go this time, but in the next Census please be certain to give the *full* names of *everyone* living at this address."

  • Joe_JP||

    If you are going to write about this subject, ignoring that slaves were counted too is a bit disconcerting.

    The general post has its heart in the right place. When will "illegal beauticians" be talked about?

    Or will "illegal" only be used for immigrants? Just to note that the distrust of this question will also affect some residents who are not undocumented, including those who might not want to take part in the census because of undocumented individuals living at their residence or from fear of being accused of some mistake or something.

    After all, honest mistake in voting at times has led to charges. Plus, distrust of the government is there anyway -- people here should be sympathetic -- and this will only increase it.

  • Vernon Depner||

    ...those who might not want to take part in the census because of undocumented individuals living at their residence...

    There is a similar but much larger problem with low-income Black residents not cooperating with the census because they have boyfriends or other family members living illicitly in their subsidized houses and fear they'll be thrown out if they admit that to the guvment. To them I say, tough shit—if you don't won't to answer the census because you're paranoid about your public assistance fraud being discovered, then do without representation. I don't care.

    ...distrust of the government is there anyway...and this will only increase it.

    So, what's the down side?

  • Joe_JP||

    There are various people who distrust census takers, some of a conservative leaning sort who don't like certain questions that have been asked over the years.

    The overall point is (1) there are various groups in this specific respect that will be scared (2) if net it was worth it, fine, but it isn't. So, it isn't worth the risk that will exist beyond even those undocumented.

    The government is in place to do things and we shouldn't needlessly increase distrust and encourage people to not do the minimal duties citizenship and residence brings (taking part in the census is one of them). Distrust in the government for its own sake is not warranted.

  • Vernon Depner||

    The point is that the only people who will be spooked by a question about citizenship are here illegally and therefore should NOT have representation in government, so no harm done if they don't cooperate with the census.

    Distrust in the government for its own sake is the only rational position.

  • WhatAboutBob||

    Too bad the new census question doesn't scare illegal immigrants from coming here in the first place.

  • Rev. Arthur Ꮮ. Kirkland||

    Portraying this as the first time the US has put a secondary or tertiary purpose above the primary purpose of the Census is utterly mendacious.

    It's basic economics that increasing costs of compliance reduces compliance at the margin. Thus every question other than those asking for an enumeration reduces compliance, and thus the accuracy of the enumeration, and accordingly values a secondary or tertiary purpose over the primary.

    If you're arguing that we should abolish all questions other than "How many persons live at this residence?" (and even the 1790 Census went into more detail than that), then you can claim that you're worried about protecting the accuracy of the enumeration from the competing desire to gather other information about the population. Otherwise, you're perfectly fine with reducing the accuracy of the enumeration for a good-enough cause, you're just disagreeing with what causes are good enough.

    In short, we've established that you're willing to subvert the enumeration, dear, we're just haggling about the price.

  • Sevo||

    ALMOST, almost got me until that bogus "L".
    But good choice of words-of-many-syllables, and the last sentence was a jewel!

  • wreckinball||

    The census is used for setting of districts which is based on number of voters ie citizens
    Thus it's fricking obvious that we need to separate those that can and cannot vote
    Duh

  • Get To Da Chippah||

    Where does the Constitution define "People" as having anything to do with residency? It certainly doesn't use that definition of "People" when it uses the word in the Bill of Rights.

  • Vernon Depner||

    Section 2 of the 14th Amendment does not mention residency.

  • Vernon Depner||

    Section 2 of the 14th Amendment, which you have repeatedly claimed settles the question of who is counted for purposes of apportionment, does not mention residency. It refers only to "persons". The only exception is "Indians not taxed". Therefore, ACCORDING TO YOU, all other persons present in a state should be counted for purposes of apportionment. That would, of course, include tourists, diplomats, invading soldiers, people flying over in aircraft and spacecraft, illegal aliens, and, arguably, fetuses. Explain where in Section 2 of the 14th Amendment you find language that allows us to count illegal aliens but not all those other people I've mentioned, or admit that you are wrong about Section 2 of the 14th Amendment eliminating any ambiguity about the matter.

  • Vernon Depner||

    And which non-citizens are not counted is subject to the whim of Michael Hihn. Special pleading.

  • leninsmummy||

    Not sure if wether illegals will be scared is a constitutional concern. Nothing about asking this question is unconstitutional so this article is basically about feelings... again. Thanks, reason magazine.

  • Vernon Depner||

    The issue is about the accuracy of the count. Since illegal aliens should NOT be counted for purposes of apportionment, the more they AREN'T counted, the more accurate the count is for its intended purpose.

  • OneLoneLibertarian||

    They've been doing it wrong for over 200 years ,... but now we have you to correct them!!!

    Umm, I've shown EXACTLY where and how you fail, here.

    Plus, how long until you realize they'd have to ask about citizenship ... because non-citizens get the forms!. For over 200 years!!!

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    I guess this article follows the rule of Journalism, if the headline asks a question, the answer is no.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    I guess this article follows the rule of Journalism, if the headline asks a question, the answer is no.

  • Careless||

    It's been like this until now! And now they're going to change it back to the way it was, not all that long ago!

    Try to make your propaganda at lest internally consistent, Matt

  • Dave Sweeny||

    Not well written. You suggest that over-representing California and elsewhere in the Congress can certainly feel wrong. Since when is your magazine equating feelings with reason? Over representation is wrong! Representative Barbara Jordan pointed this out. She headed a Commission to suggest immigration legislation reform, She stated that citizenship is a privilege, not a right, and pointed out the negative effects of illegal immigration on the Afro-American community, as well as white citizens on the lower economic level. You then state, "But feelings and constitutionality are separate things." What is your point? Please explain.
    You quote an opinion: "Voting rights are not and never have been the relevant consideration in counting population for congressional representation." If so, what other considerations would you suggest are relevant, Do you honestly think the census can answer all seemingly relevant questions? Do you really want to know the precise number of illegal immigrants? Why? If you don't first ask the citizenship question, how can the census determine an accurate figure for the number of citizens eligible to vote? Counting citizens is a more relevant consideration than counting illegals. I'll offer two reasons you ignored: 1. Voting fraud, 2. Welfare fraud. MAGA.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Good article, thanks.

  • VinniUSMC||

    We should care about illegal immigrants not responding to the census, why exactly?

  • Vernon Depner||

    Some morons think illegal aliens are entitled to representation in Congress simply because they are here.

  • OneLoneLibertarian||

    You people keep misstating the issue, which is counting illegals for apportionment. Non-voters cannot have representation in Congress.

    If anyone is a moron, it's the ones who lie about the Constitution. Or assume that anyone traveling through the country should be counted, as if the founders were the morons.

  • Vernon Depner||

    If they are counted for apportionment, then they have representation in Congress.

    No one thinks travelers should be counted. The argument is that NO non-citizens should be counted. Some here make an indefensible distinction between illegal aliens and other non-citizens who happen to be in the country when the census is taken.

  • OneLoneLibertarian||

    If they are counted for apportionment, then they have representation in Congress.

    Bullshit.

    The argument is that NO non-citizens should be counted

    Imagine that. Over 200 years until you figured that out.

    Keep repeating that the 14th Amendment does not deal with residents, and I won't be the only one laughing at you. Citizens are not mentioned until much later, an obvious distinction that you also missed.

    Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice-President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age,* and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, ....

    They said :"persons" for apportionment and "citizens" for voting rights ... both in the same paragraph!

    Oh yeah, our planet is not flat.

  • Vernon Depner||

    You have failed to keep up with the conversation.

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