In killing citizenship question, Trump adopts Census Bureau’s preferred solution to a thorny problem

After all the sound and fury, after all the lies and pretence:

President Donald Trump’s decision this afternoon to abandon plans to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census and instead rely on existing government records to generate citizenship statistics matches the Census Bureau’s preferred option for dealing with the politically explosive issue. It’s also a win for those who have wanted to keep such a charged question off the decennial headcount.

“This is Option C,” says former Census Director John Thompson, referring to a March 2018 memo in which Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross spelled out several options for developing a citizenship tally, and gave his rationale for deciding to include the question on the count that will begin on 1 April. Option C “is what the Census Bureau proposed to Secretary Ross,” adds Thompson, who stepped down in June 2017, a few months after Ross began his clandestine efforts to get the Department of Justice to request the question. Ross eventually chose what he called Option D, a combination of using information already in government agency files, known as administrative records, along with a yes/no question about citizenship on the census questionnaire sent to U.S. households.

The Supreme Court, however, blocked Ross’s decision, saying he had violated administrative law by providing a “contrived” rather than a “genuine” explanation for why he wanted to add the question. Critics of the question say it would have prompted many people living in the United States to decline to answer the census, leading to an undercount of the population, and was motivated by a desire to reduce the political power of regions that tend to support Democratic candidates.

Today, speaking at a hastily arranged one-way press conference in which he took no questions, Trump said he will issue an executive order telling every federal agency to “immediately” provide the Commerce Department with “all requested records regarding the number of citizens and non-citizens in our country.” He said the goal is to generate “an accurate count of how many citizens, non-citizens, and illegal aliens are in the United States of America. Not too much to ask.”

Census experts say that the agency should be able to satisfy the president’s request to develop data on the first two categories – citizens and non-citizens. And the Census Bureau already has agreements with a number of federal and state agencies that allow it to access administrative records that include some citizenship information, according to this 2018 analysis by bureau researchers. But using administrative records to determine the number of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. is not possible, the experts say. And that’s a good thing, believes Robert Santos, vice president and chief methodologist at the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C.

“What this administration really wanted was a tally of those who are undocumented,” says Santos, who is also president-elect of the American Statistical Association. “But that’s not going to happen. They will fly under the radar.” As a result, he says, “now they can participate in the census without fear” of political repercussions.

It’s also good news for Census Bureau, he adds. Extracting the agency from the bitterly partisan national debate over immigration should allow it to do its job of carrying out a complete and accurate census, he says.

Civil rights groups opposing the question also hailed the president’s decision as a victory but said they hadn’t given up their fight against the administration’s policies. “This is a welcome reprieve of his partisan agenda, and a win for all communities,” says Vanita Gupta, president of the Leadership Conference Education Fund in Washington, D.C. “[But] we remain on guard to combat any attempts to sabotage a fair and accurate count.”

Source: In killing citizenship question, Trump adopts Census Bureau’s preferred solution to a thorny problem

And further commentary:

Donald Trump pretended he was doing something meaningful on Thursday after he was forced to cave in on adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

But his post-cave bait-and-switch to push an executive order is also going up in flames almost immediately after it was issued.

Page said:

“So just saying it’s not a cave does not make it not a cave. Just the attorney general saying congratulations, Mr. President, does not make it a congratulatory moment. And the executive order, it is not at all clear that it’s necessary to have a new executive order to give publicly available data from federal agencies to the Commerce Department. That would seem to be something that would be easy to do. And in fact, as you noted, the government already calculates the number of illegal immigrants and the number of non-citizens who live in this country, and they’ve done that for some time.”

Trump is pulling out all the distractions after his census cave-in

Donald Trump’s executive order stunt that he announced on Thursday isn’t the only distraction he’s pulling out following his census loss.

It was also reported today that the administration would move forward with its raids on thousands of undocumented migrant families. According to The New York Times, “Nationwide raids to arrest thousands of members of undocumented families have been scheduled to begin Sunday, according to two current and one former homeland security officials.”

The raids, which had been delayed last month due to widespread backlash, will likely separate more families. Even the president’s acting DHS secretary has admitted as much.

Of course, none of these steps are being taken because they are sound policy solutions. They are just the latest in a two-year string of distractions meant to paper over an endless string of policy and political failures from this White House.

Source: Trump’s Citizenship Executive Order Is Already Going Up In Flames

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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