The Republican Party’s openly racist attack on the Census is going to have real effects, even as it was too blatant for John Roberts to go all the way on. After all, there are many ways to impose a racist regime and if you don’t want to count immigrants, making them too scared to show their faces is one good way to reduce counting them.
As census efforts ramp up this spring, outreach organizations fear that Trump administration officials may try to deport the immigrant communities they need to count.
A network of nonprofits, local governments and advocacy groups has fanned out to help the Census Bureau conduct its decennial count of America’s residents. Some advocates worry the administration, after its failed push to add a citizenship question to the census, may continue on-the-ground immigration enforcement efforts in a departure from previous censuses.
A raid by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement could easily wreck months of outreach efforts, experts said.
“It would be really chilling if the Census Bureau had a partnership event in a community with immigrants and ICE showed up,” said former Census Bureau Director Thompson. “It could be really, really disruptive of getting a good count for certain population groups.”
This year’s count of roughly 330 million people living in the United States has already begun – the Census Bureau started Tuesday in remote Alaska – but won’t ramp up in earnest until the spring.
Organizations such as the Urban Institute have said the fight over the citizenship question, as well as growing government distrust, increase the chances that this year’s census will miss millions of people. That could distort political representation, federal spending and economic growth for a decade, experts have said.
During previous census efforts, ICE and the bureau came to an understanding to keep immigration enforcement from interfering with the count.
At the very least, we know that there are powerful people in the administration who want to use the Census as a tool of ethnic cleansing and we definitely know the president is totally on board. Whether other factors get in the way or not remains to be seen. But one point Carol Anderson makes in her excellent book One Person, No Vote is that intimidation is a great way to lower voting rates because it convinces people to give up trying to vote forever. ICE intimidation of immigrant communities could absolutely have already done that here.