Cherokee Nation Strikes Down Language That Limits Citizenship Rights ‘By Blood’

Of note:

The Cherokee Nation’s Supreme Court ruled this week to remove the words “by blood” from its constitution and other legal doctrines.

The words, added to the constitution in 2007, have been used to exclude Black people whose ancestors were enslaved by the tribe from obtaining full Cherokee Nation citizenship rights.

There are currently some 8,500 enrolled Cherokee Nation members descended from these Freedmen, thousands of whom were removed on the Trail of Tears along with tribal citizens.

“The Freedmen, until this Cherokee Nation Supreme Court ruling, they couldn’t hold office, they couldn’t run for tribal council and they couldn’t run for chief,” says Graham Lee Brewer, an editor for Indigenous affairs at High Country Newsand KOSU in Oklahoma. And I would argue that that made them second-class citizens.”

Black Freedmen and their descendants have long fought to maintain their citizenship rights, which were stripped from them in 2007 with the “by blood” amendment.

Monday’s ruling calls those words “a relic of painful and ugly, racial past” and draws comparisons to the lingering effects the racist Jim Crow laws had on Black Americans.

The decision comes after a federal judge ruled in 2017 that by excluding Freedmen from its citizenship rules, the Cherokee Nation violated a treaty it signed in 1866 with the U.S. government. The treaty granted citizenship to the formerly enslaved people.

Brewer, who is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, explains that citizenship rights grant access to services such as tribal health care, scholarships, housing programs and more. For many descendants of Freedman, he notes, the Cherokee Nation health care system is their only option for health care.

“So the discussion about removing them from the citizenship status, it wasn’t just a citizenship question, it was a civil rights question,” he tells All Things Considered.

Here are excerpts from the interview.

What other legal implications, what other cultural implications are might flow from this change?

This really makes it possible that someday, a descendant of a Freedmen could be the chief of the Cherokee Nation. It would really illustrate the strength of tribal sovereignty because our citizenship laws are not based on race. They are based on community and belonging. And so it’s much more than just the “amount of Indian blood that runs in your veins.” It’s what community do you claim, and what community claims you?

As a member of the Cherokee Nation yourself, how do you find yourself feeling?

It was just such a relief to see that Supreme Court decision come down. And as someone who reads a lot of court documents for work, I would argue it was one of the most beautifully written ones I’ve ever read. It’s just really great to finally see the tribe fully and legally embrace the Freedmen. Their descendants went through some of the most horrific and just violent history that we did of genocide in this country. And I think they have every right to share in our prosperity today.

You said this is one of the most beautifully written rulings you have ever read. Is there a line or two that stands out?

On war-torn soil in Indian Territory during Reconstruction, thousands of miles from their respective homelands, the heartbeats of three First Nations, the Cherokees, the Shawnees, and the Delawares, and three continents of flesh tones and cultures, Native Americans, African Americans and adopted or intermarried European Americans, were forced to coalesce and weave together a single nation to be known by only one name henceforth: the Cherokee Nation.

Source: Cherokee Nation Strikes Down Language That Limits Citizenship Rights ‘By Blood’

Dual citizenship: Zelensky enacts NSDC decision on threats to national security

Aimed at Russian citizenship, will likely impact some Ukrainian Canadians:
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has put into effect the National Security and Defense Council’s decision to counter threats to national security in the field of citizenship, the President’s Office has reported.

“President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky signed decree No. 85/2021, which puts into effect the National Security and Defense Council decision of February 26, 2021 ‘On urgent measures to counter threats to national security in the field of citizenship’,” the document reads.

According to the NSDC decision, the Cabinet of Ministers, together with the Central Election Commission and the Security Service of Ukraine, must conduct an inventory and analyze Ukrainian legislation on issues related to dual (multiple) citizenship within two months.

In particular, it is necessary to establish the presence or absence of legal certainty of the prohibition of citizens of Ukraine, who have the citizenship of a foreign state, to hold certain state and political positions or to perform the functions of state or local self-government.

Based on the results of such an analysis, the government must submit to the Verkhovna Rada within six months the draft laws that would prohibit Ukrainian citizens, who have the citizenship of a foreign state or have submitted documents (undergoing the procedure) for acquiring foreign citizenship, to apply for performing state or local government functions, to apply for holding senior positions at strategic state-owned facilities, to have access to state secrets, to be a member of an election commission, an official observer or to conduct election campaigning in national and local elections, and to be a member of a political party.

“It is also necessary to develop and submit to parliament a procedure for confirming the refusal and renunciation of the citizenship of a foreign state for citizens of Ukraine who apply for the above positions,” the statement said.

In addition, a procedure should be introduced at the legislative level for citizens of Ukraine to submit declarations on the acquisition of foreign citizenship. This procedure will be put into effect for residents of the temporarily occupied territories of Donetsk, Luhansk regions and Crimea only after the restoration of the territorial integrity of Ukraine.

Liability must be established for the submission of inaccurate information in declarations about the absence of foreign citizenship.

According to the NSDC decision, the government should also start an interstate dialogue on concluding bilateral agreements with interested states, except for the aggressor state, aimed at resolving issues related to dual (multiple) citizenship.

Source: Dual citizenship: Zelensky enacts NSDC decision on threats to national security

Would Canadian citizenship be a lifeline to this jailed Saudi blogger? Ottawa ‘not convinced’

Raises some broader citizenship policy issues (e.g., likely sets a precedent for other detained prisoners) and likelihood of impact on Saudi government incarceration of Badawi likely to me minimal at best, counter-productive at worst. That being said, yet another reminder of the false veneer of MBS’s modernization initiatives:

The federal government appears reluctant to grant Canadian citizenship to a jailed blogger in Saudi Arabia whose wife and children live in this country.

Weeks after the House of Commons passed a unanimous motion to ask the immigration minister to bestow citizenship on Saudi dissident Raif Badawi, a source told the Star on Wednesday that the federal government is “not convinced” such an act would help — and fears that a show of public support might in fact worsen his treatment.

As a result, the federal government prefers, for now, to stick with diplomatic “back channels” to advocate for his release, said the source, on the condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

The case appears to be the latest to spotlight the fine line the Canadian government is trying to walk when it comes to using public pressure versus quiet diplomacy on the international stage.

Badawi, who has championed support for religious pluralism and respect for minorities, was arrested in 2012 and accused of using the internet to “infringe on religious values” in violation of a Saudi Arabian law against cybercrime, according to his international legal team. He was later found guilty of the charges and sentenced to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes and a steep fine.

“This new investigation is likely an act of intimidation, intended to silence Raif and his family as the Kingdom faces growing backlash for its human rights abuses,” said Brandon Silver, an international human rights lawyer and the centre’s director of policy and projects.

The centre says Badawi’s ongoing imprisonment is unjust and it has urged Saudi authorities to include Badawi among the list of prisoners who, as part of an annual tradition, will be granted royal pardons during Ramadan this year.

“Nine years have been long enough. My kids are growing up without their father, and we all miss him terribly,” Haidar said in a recent statement.

A written appeal previously sent to Saudi authorities by Irwin Cotler, Canada’s former justice minister and the centre’s founding chair, argued that Badawi’s “moderate and reasonable voice” did not defame Islam or personally attack authority figures, posed no threat to national security and reflected a “deep patriotism.”

The clemency appeal noted that Saudi Arabia’s “reputational crisis” following the 2018 murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Turkey, as well as other events, could intensify if the kingdom doesn’t send a “clear signal” to the world it is committed to reforming.

A motion in late January calling on Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino to use his discretion under a section of the Citizenship Act, which allows granting of Canadian citizenship to a person facing “special and unusual hardship,” was put forward by Bloc Québécois leader Yves-François Blanchet and approved unanimously in the House. 

Thomas Juneau, an associate professor of international affairs at the University of Ottawa, said he sees both sides of the argument when it comes to conferring citizenship upon Badawi.

On the one hand, granting citizenship is the morally right thing to do and helps bring attention to the case. On the other hand, there’s a powerful counterargument that granting citizenship could make the Saudi government feel like it’s been backed into a corner and there’s a risk it could dig its heels in because it does not want to be seen as bending to outside pressure.

“It’s not a democracy, but it still has its own domestic considerations,” Juneau said. “It might be reluctant to be seen as responding to external pressure.”

Juneau says this sort of dilemma over whether Canada should exert public pressure on another country or use more discreet back-channel talks to get its way can be seen in this country’s handling of the ongoing detention of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor in China and terrorist kidnapping cases abroad.

“Is it better when these terrorist kidnappings are managed with as low profile as possible or when there’s attention brought to the case? We don’t know the answer to that. There’s still a very serious debate,” he said.

Juneau adds that going the quieter route can invite speculation whether the government is seeking to avoid political embarrassment.

Silver told the Star conferring Canadian citizenship upon Badawi would “give Canada greater standing in its interventions on Mr. Badawi’s behalf, including in requests for clemency and consular visits.”

“As well, (Badawi) is subject to a 10-year travel ban following the completion of his sentence, and Canadian citizenship may also help secure him a passport and safe passage to Canada despite the ban.”

There is precedent for this, Silver added, citing the federal government’s efforts under Pierre Elliott Trudeau to secure the release of Soviet dissident and human-rights advocate Anatoly Sharansky, who was sentenced to 13 years in prison in the late 1970s on espionage charges. According to a 1978 Canadian Press story, Trudeau told Soviet authorities “We would take him off their hands” and that the House had earlier given unanimous approval to grant Sharansky landed-immigrant status. (Sharansky was eventually released in 1986 and flew to Israel).

Asked Wednesday if the government planned to act on the motion regarding Badawi, Alexander Cohen, the minister’s press secretary said in a statement, “We continue to raise (Badawi’s) case at the highest levels and we have repeatedly called for clemency to be granted. We remain in contact with Ms. Haidar and we want to see Mr. Badawi reunited with his family. The recent motion demonstrates the concern of Parliament with regard to Mr. Badawi’s detention.”

Syrine Khoury, press secretary to Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau, would not elaborate, saying, “We will continue to raise our concerns regarding (Badawi’s) situation in Riyadh and Ottawa.”

However the government source said Ottawa was “treading carefully” on the question of granting citizenship to Badawi.

“The idea it could confer benefits is tenuous,” the source said.

For one, the Saudis don’t recognize dual citizenship, so giving Badawi Canadian citizenship would basically amount to a symbolic gesture.

Secondly, the source said, there is concern the Saudis could perceive the act of granting citizenship as Canada unnecessarily “meddling” in their internal affairs and potentially hurt Badawi’s clemency bid and result in a deterioration of his conditions. (Badawi is allowed brief phone calls with his wife but is not allowed visitors, according to his international legal team).

Informed Wednesday of the government’s lukewarm position on granting citizenship to Badawi, Silver said public advocacy and private diplomacy are equally important and proved to be an effective combination in getting the recent release from detention of Loujain Alhathloul, the Saudi women’s rights activist and former UBC graduate.

The granting of citizenship to Badawi, Silver added, would give “great hope” to Badawi and to his family and potentially protect him from future reprisals.

“I don’t think symbolism is something that should be so quickly papered over.”


Shamima Begum loses fight to restore UK citizenship after supreme court ruling

Of note:

Shamima Begum, who fled Britain as a schoolgirl to join Islamic State in Syria, has failed to restore her British citizenship after the supreme court ruled she had lost her case.

The judgment on Friday from the UK’s highest court is a critical – and controversial – test case of the UK’s policy to strip the citizenship of Britons who went to join Isis and are being detained by Syrian Kurdish groups without trial.

Lord Reed, the president of the court, said its judges had decided unanimously to rule in favour of the home secretary and against Begum on all counts before it. That means the 21-year-old will not be able to re-enter the UK to fight her case in person and will not be able to have her citizenship restored while she is being detained in Syria.

“The supreme court unanimously allows the home secretary’s appeals and dismisses Ms Begum’s cross-appeal,” Reed said.

But the court did hold out the slender hope that Begum could have a final appeal against the decision to revoke her citizenship if she were ever to be in a position where she could properly instruct lawyers. However, her detention in a Syrian camp, where she is not able to communicate with her legal team, makes that unlikely.

ICYMI: Revoking citizenship just global NIMBYism

Good commentary:

Last week, news broke that New Zealand-born woman Suhayra Aden had been detained with her surviving two children (aged five and two) near the Syrian border by Turkish authorities, who labelled her an Islamic State terrorist. She now faces the prospect of being deported to New Zealand – despite having not lived in New Zealand since childhood, and despite her family residing in Australia. Just how did this happen?

Aden left New Zealand aged six to live in Australia, and she eventually became an Australian citizen. In 2014, she reportedly travelled on her Australian passport to join the Islamic State. She was known to both Australian and New Zealand authorities, and the question of which country ought to be responsible in the event of her capture had been discussed by Prime Ministers Jacinda Ardern and Scott Morrison.

However, Ardern was subsequently informed that Australia had revoked Aden’s citizenship, leading to the prospect of Aden’s deportation to New Zealand. Ardern expressed her disappointment, stating that she was “tired of having Australia export its problems”. Morrison responded that he was simply putting Australia’s national security first and that Aden’s citizenship had been automatically revoked under Australian law.

Underlying this diplomatic stoush is the phenomenon of citizenship deprivation for counterterrorism purposes, which some states have employed to bar the return of so-called foreign terrorist fighters – in essence, individuals who travel overseas to participate in an armed conflict with a terrorist group. In this case, by stripping Aden of her citizenship, Australia makes her New Zealand’s problem (since she is no longer legally entitled to return to Australia), while avoiding the international law prohibition on rendering people stateless (since she still has New Zealand citizenship).

Two provisions of the Australian Citizenship Act that were in force between December 2015 and September 2020 automatically revoked the citizenship of dual citizens aged 14 years or over if they engaged in various terrorism-related activities, served in the armed forces of a country at war with Australia, or fought for, or were in the service of, a declared terrorist organisation. These provisions operated automatically; no actual decision was needed to revoke citizenship. As soon as the person engaged in the specified conduct, the revocation occurred – as if by magic. In contrast, further action, such as the cancellation of a passport, requires official action.

From the standpoint of administrative fairness and accountability, these automatic provisions are deeply problematic. The practical obstacles to challenging the revocation of citizenship are daunting – not least because there was no ministerial decision to challenge, but also because notice that revocation had occurred could be lawfully delayed for several years. These provisions are also problematic from the standpoint of legal certainty. Since these provisions did not depend on any Australian official even being aware of the conduct triggering the loss of citizenship, it can be unclear who had actually had their citizenship revoked and when.

Take Aden’s case as an example. She reportedly travelled to Syria in 2014. But beyond her having three children to two Swedish men (both deceased), little is known about what she did there. If (as I think most likely) Aden’s citizenship was revoked because she was in the service of a declared terrorist organisation, she would have lost her Australian citizenship on or after May 6, 2016, the date the declaration that Islamic State was a terrorist organisation became effective. (As an aside, if the foregoing analysis is correct, Aden’s eldest child, reportedly aged five, would remain an Australian citizen by descent.)

The leader of the opposition, Judith Collins, suggested the Government has been outmanoeuvred by the Australian government and should have revoked Aden’s citizenship first. However, the only New Zealand legal provision that might have applied to Aden requires that she voluntarily acquired the citizenship of another country and acted in a manner contrary to the interests of New Zealand. She must also have done these things “while a New Zealand citizen and while of or over the age of 18 years and of full capacity”. So in order for this provision to be applicable, Aden would have had to have acquired Australian citizenship only as an adult. Moreover, deprivation of citizenship requires a ministerial decision that is rightly subject to judicial scrutiny. Set against the Australian provisions that automatically revoke citizenship at the point in time specified conduct occurs, there was never much prospect of New Zealand winning this race to the bottom.

Dual citizenship offered Australia an easy out in Aden’s case; the law automatically revoking her citizenship conveniently obfuscated responsibility (the Australian government has, unsurprisingly, not drawn attention to its power to exempt a person from losing citizenship under these provisions). But Aden is just one instance of a broader phenomenon. The Syrian civil war attracted tens of thousands of foreigners, among them women. There are thousands of women, often with children, who find themselves in a similar situation to Aden. In the end, citizenship deprivation is a form of legalised NIMBYism with dual citizens as objects, and as such, is neither a sustainable nor internationally responsible way of addressing the problem.

Source: Revoking citizenship just global NIMBYism

Biden DHS Scraps Trump Administration’s Longer, More Difficult Citizenship Test


The Department of Homeland Security is discarding a new citizenship test that just went into effect in December, reverting back to an older version after the Trump Administration’s test was blasted for allegedly containing conservative biases.

A new citizenship test, which took effect on December 1, upped the question pool for naturalization candidates from 100 to 128 questions and required 12 out of 20 questions randomly assigned to be answered correctly, up from 6 out of 10.

The test was also blasted for its content, with five questions in the pool referring to the Federalist Papers—a favorite topic among conservatives—with only two questions about the civil rights movement and three about women’s suffrage, for example.

Those who file for naturalization after March 1 will be given the 2008 test the Biden Administration is reverting to, while those who filed between December 1 and March 1 will be given the option of taking either the 2020 or 2008 version.


Around 2,500. That’s how many comments from the public U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services received about the 2020 changes.


“Multiple commenters noted that there was little advance notice before implementation of the 2020 civics test, which raised concerns about limited time for study and preparation of training materials and resources,” the Department of Homeland Security said in its policy change announcement Monday.


The Trump Administration was known for its tough stance against immigration into the U.S., whether the immigration was legal or not. One of Trump’s signature campaign promises was the construction of a wall along the southern border with Mexico, which was never completed, and his administration became notorious for unwavering enforcement of family separation policies aimed at combating illegal immigration. The Trump Administration also curbed legal access for noncitizens to work in the U.S., tightening the rules around H-1B visas. The Administration made numerous policy changes committed to enforcing what it touted as traditional American values, but what critics denounced as pushing conservative views. One of Trump’s final acts was creating the 1776 Commission to promote “patriotic education” in schools, which was almost immediately zapped by President Joe Biden.


Democrats have proposed an immigration bill that could give around 11 million undocumented immigrants U.S. citizenship through an eight-year process, but the bill faces a difficult path of passing through the 50-50 Senate.

Source: Biden DHS Scraps Trump Administration’s Longer, More Difficult Citizenship Test

New Zealand, Australia in rare row over Islamic State militant

Right call. UK did the same with Jack Letts (Jihadi Jack) when it revoked his UK citizenship given that he had Canadian citizenship by virtue of his father even if he had never lived in Canada:
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Tuesday accused Australia of shirking its responsibility for a dual national arrested in Turkey over reported links with Islamic State.

In an unusually blunt message to her counterpart Scott Morrison, Ardern said Canberra was “wrong” to expect Wellington to accept the woman, who she said had strong ties to Australia.

“Any fair minded person would consider this person an Australian and that is my view too,” Ardern said in a statement. “We believe Australia has abdicated its responsibilities.”

The 26-year-old woman was reportedly arrested with her two children this week while trying to illegally enter Turkey’s southern province of Hatay, bordering war-torn Syria, and identified as a member of Isis.
Ardern said the woman had been a dual Australian-New Zealand citizen until authorities in Canberra cancelled her passport, making her Wellington’s responsibility.
“It is wrong that New Zealand should shoulder the responsibility for a situation involving a woman who has not lived in New Zealand since she was six,” she said.

“[The woman] has resided in Australia since that time, has her family in Australia and left for Syria from Australia on her Australian passport.

“New Zealand, frankly, is tired of having Australia exporting its problems,” Ardern said. “If the shoe were on the other foot, we would take responsibility. That would be the right thing to do and I ask Australia to do the same.”

Morrison defended his government’s decision as in “Australia’s national security interests”.

“We do not want to see terrorists who fought with terrorism organisations enjoying privileges of citizenship, which I think they forfeit the second they engage as an enemy of our country,” he said during a press conference in Canberra.

But Morrison added that he would speak with Ardern further, saying: “There is still a lot more unknown about this case and where it sits and where it may go to next.”

Ardern also urged Australia to consider the welfare of the woman’s children.

“These children were born in a conflict zone through no fault of their own,” she said. “Coming to New Zealand, where they have no immediate family, would not be in their best interests. We know that young children thrive best when surrounded by people who love them.”

Ardern said her government has an obligation to its citizens regardless of the circumstances or offences committed, and was also engaging with Turkish authorities over the issue.

New Zealand has previously criticised Australia for deporting people across the Tasman Sea who have tenuous ties to the country.

Since 2014, around 3,000 New Zealanders in Australia have had their visas cancelled “on character grounds” – which does not always require a criminal conviction.

Ardern has pointed out many of those being deported have lived most of their lives in Australia and described the issue as “corrosive” to the relationship between the neighbouring nations.

The woman’s case has been known to Australian and New Zealand authorities for some time. Ardern said she told Morrison the decision to strip the woman of her citizenship was wrong.

“I never believed the right response was to simply have a race to revoke people’s citizenships … they did not act in good faith,” she said.

Source: New Zealand, Australia in rare row over Islamic State militant

Five years after call to add Indigenous rights to citizenship guide, no changes made

Valid critique. The government has prepared an advanced draft (Revamped citizenship guide still a work in progress as election nears.  and has tabled C-6 to change the oath), but whether the new guide will be issued or the bill receive Royal Assent before a likely election in the summer or fall remains to be seen:à

More than five years after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission called on the federal government to revise the Canadian citizenship oath and exam guide, newcomers still study a book that contains a single paragraph on residential schools and they take an oath that doesn’t refer to treaties with Indigenous Peoples.

Calls for action Nos. 93 and 94 in the commission’s final report in December 2015 called on the government to update the citizenship guide and oath to reflect a more inclusive history of Indigenous Peoples and a recognition of their treaties and rights.

The Liberal government introduced a new law in October to adopt a revised oath of citizenship that will have new Canadians swear to faithfully observe the country’s treaties with Indigenous Peoples. Two previous versions of the law died with the 2019 election.

Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino told the House of Commons Indigenous and northern affairs committee last month that his department is consulting with national Indigenous organizations to revise the citizenship guide to include more information.

The five largest Indigenous organizations in the country told The Canadian Press that they have not been involved in any formal consultations recently with the government on the new guide. The organizations are the Assembly of First Nations, the Metis National Council, the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and the Native Women’s Association of Canada.

AFN Alberta Regional Chief Marlene Poitras said Indigenous Peoples’ history and culture should be reflected in the materials that newcomers study to become citizens.

“Absolutely, (the citizenship guide) should be changed,” she said in an interview.

“Education is key — about who we are, how we existed here and welcomed the newcomers here, signed treaties, then had to deal with residential schools.”

Natan Obed, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, said his organization worked with the Immigration Department in 2017 and 2018 on a new guide, but work has stopped.

The AFN asked the department in 2018 to seek out First Nations historians to ensure inclusion of First Nations content in the guide.

“Officials from (the department) have been in touch with AFN recently to discuss next steps and to share a new version of the guide. A meeting has not yet been scheduled,” the AFN said in a statement.

The department said in a statement the new citizenship guide will be published “as soon as we can,” noting that a launch date for the new guide has not been set.

Clement Chartier, the president of the Metis National Council, said his organization received a draft of the revised guide on May 3, 2018.

“Since then, I’ve not seen anything,” Chartier said.

NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan said her party shares concerns about the slow progress on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls for action.

She said the government’s introduction of Bill C-8 to revise the oath of citizenship came too late.

“This is the third time in which this bill has come before Parliament, and each time prior to this the government’s chosen to introduce the bill so late in the day,” she said.

Kwan said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has talked recently about the possibility of having an early federal election.

“Will Bill C-8 once again be railroaded and not be completed?” she said.

Poitras is worried C-8 would die in Parliament if an election is called, since that wipes the legislative agenda clean.

“I’m hearing that there’s another election and they still kind of go back and forth about the semantics of it,” she said,

“It’s not going to go anywhere again.”

The department said Mendicino is grateful to the parliamentary committee members for voting to sending C-8 back to the House of Commons for third reading he looks forward to seeing it pass through the Senate and become law as soon as possible.

Conservative Indigenous services critic Gary Vidal said it’s unfortunate that the Liberals once again seem to be missing an opportunity to act.

“The Liberal government has been big on promises of reconciliation but slow on action,” he said.

Lorraine Whitman, the president of Native Women’s Association of Canada, said she was invited to testify on Bill C-8 last week, only two days before the committee meeting.

“It would have been nice to be able to be included prior to it,” she said.

National Chief Elmer St. Pierre of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples said his organization was not consulted on any of the new laws the government has put forward to advance the rights and the livelihoods of Indigenous Peoples.

“I was able to speak for six minutes on the citizenship,” he said referring to his testimony at the committee meeting on Bill C-8.

“We weren’t really informed and it was kind of like the 11th hour when they gave us the opportunity to talk,” he said.

Poitras said all political parties should work together to pass Bill C-8 quickly.

“Make this a non-partisan issue,” she said.

“If Canada is really serious about addressing systemic racism and dealing with truth and reconciliation, they would honour those recommendations and move forward with this legislation to receive royal assent.”

Source: Five years after call to add Indigenous rights to citizenship guide, no changes made

Immigration Hard-Liner Files Reveal 40-Year Bid Behind Trump’s Census Obsession

Good long read of the history behind undercounting the US population in the census:

Even before taking office, former President Donald Trump’s administration obsessed over the U.S. census.

From a failed bid for a citizenship question to a presidential memo about unauthorized immigrants that was fast-tracked to the Supreme Court, its moves over the past four years followed a playbook first drawn up more than four decades ago by the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

In 1979, the hard-line group that became the most influential advocate for extreme restrictions on immigration launched a campaign that has held onto one consistent goal — obtaining an official count of unauthorized immigrants through the census to radically reshape Congress, the Electoral College and public policy.

Starting with a lawsuit filed weeks before the official start of the 1980 census, FAIR documented its strategy in a paper trail that NPR has reviewed in the organization’s archives at the George Washington University, as well as those of FAIR’s founder at the University of Michigan.

“It’s always been on the agenda,” Dan Stein, FAIR’s president, tells NPR, noting that it’s “very possible” that, as early as November 2016, the group discussed with Trump officials the possibility of excluding unauthorized immigrants from a key set of 2020 census results.

To some, it may seem curious that part of Trump’s agenda zeroed in on an often overlooked government tally of every person living in the U.S.

But census numbers hold what Trump has always wanted — power.

That power comes in the form of 435 votes in the House of Representatives and the Electoral College. Once a decade, those votes are up for grabs among the states based on new census numbers. The more residents included in a state’s population count, the more of a say it has for the next 10 years in how federal laws are made and how the next occupant of the White House is chosen.

The Constitution has spelled out specific instructions for the census. Not just citizens or voters, but “persons” who reside in the states are supposed to be counted. Congress eventually codified the 14th Amendment’s language into federal law that calls for the “whole number of persons” living in each state and the “tabulation of total population” to be used when reapportioning House seats and electoral votes.

Census counting does have a thorny history. Before the Civil War, the fifth sentence of the country’s founding document required an enslaved person to be counted as “three fifths” of a free person. And it was just before the 1940 census that the Census Bureau determined the phrase “excluding Indians not taxed” could no longer omit some American Indians from the apportionment counts.

But since the first U.S. head count in 1790, this has been an unwavering truth: No resident has ever been left out because of immigration status.

Trump officials attempted to break with that 230-year precedent. The administration, like FAIR, wanted to subtract unauthorized immigrants from the apportionment counts, taking power away from those residents and the communities where they live.

One of President Biden’s first executive orders officially quashed the Trump memo that called for that extraordinary change.

But during the Trump years, FAIR came closer to getting that count of unauthorized immigrants than it has ever before.

A page out of an old playbook

The start of the Trump administration’s four-year census saga centered around a hotly contested question: Is this person a citizen of the United States?

Trump officials wanted to use the census to directly ask for the citizenship status of every person living in every household in the country for the first time in U.S. history. That proposal has long been considered anathema to best practices for a complete and accurate head count, and the administration was not up front about exactly why it wanted to add the question to the 2020 census.

Many opponents of that citizenship question argued it was originally intended to depress census participation. Under federal law, no government agency or court can use personal information collected by the Census Bureau against anyone. But a long history of distrust of the census has made many noncitizens, Latinos, Asian Americans, and other historically undercounted groups wary of telling the government their household’s citizenship status.

Some of the question’s critics also pointed to a scheme concocted by a GOP redistricting mastermind, Thomas Hofeller, to use the neighborhood block-level citizenship data the question would generate to politically benefit Republicans and “Non-Hispanic Whites” in state and local elections for years to come.

To Roger Conner, who led FAIR until 1988 as the group’s first executive director, it was clear that the Trump administration had another goal in mind — to change how congressional seats and electoral votes are reapportioned in order to curtail the political representation of areas where unauthorized immigrants live.

“I was saying to myself, ‘This is perfectly obvious. Why can’t someone figure out what’s going on?’ ” Conner says, recalling the Trump administration’s push for a citizenship question. “I assume that’s because they thought it was not in their interest to let everybody know what their strategy was.”

That strategy (which the administration never directly connected to apportionment until Trump’s memo was released years later) began percolating through Trump’s world even before he took office.

During the 2016 campaign, former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach — an immigration hard-liner who has worked as a counsel to FAIR’s legal arm and was described by FAIR’s president as an “invaluable asset” to Trump’s immigration team — discussed a census citizenship question with campaign officials.

Shortly after the inauguration in 2017, Kobach talked about the question with Trump, then-chief strategist Steve Bannon and then-chief of staff Reince Priebus, according to Kobach’s testimony to congressional investigators.

Kobach later urged Wilbur Ross, the Trump-appointed commerce secretary overseeing the bureau, to add a specially-worded citizenship question to the census. It should also ask about immigration status, Kobach suggested in an email, so that the responses could address “the problem that aliens who do not actually ‘reside’ in the United States are still counted for congressional apportionment purposes.”

Other internal emails released for the lawsuits over the question show that the reapportionment of congressional seats was top of mind for Ross shortly after taking over the Commerce Department. In a March 2017 message from fellow Trump appointee Earl Comstock with the subject line “Your Question on the Census,” Ross received a link to a Census Bureau webpage that answered: “Are undocumented residents (aliens) in the 50 states included in the apportionment population counts?”

“Yes,” the bureau’s official response said.

But when Ross officially announced a citizenship question in 2018 as a late addition to the 2020 census form, it didn’t come with Kobach’s apportionment reasoning or checkboxes about immigration status. Instead, Ross used the Voting Rights Act to publicly justify the question, claiming the responses would help the Justice Department better enforce the civil rights era-law and protect “minority population voting rights.”

More than a year later, the Supreme Court rejected that justification for appearing to be “contrived” and blocked the question from appearing on the 2020 census.

After threatening to delay the census in the wake of his Supreme Court loss, Trump issued an executive order in July 2019 that directed other federal agencies to share their citizenship records with the Census Bureau, which was already under orders from Ross to use records to produce anonymized, block-level data about the U.S. citizenship status of every adult living in the U.S. that states could use for redistricting.

Buried within Trump’s order about citizenship data was a new policy of developing “complete and accurate” data on “illegal aliens in the country” that did not attract much attention at the time. Existing estimates by the Department of Homeland Security and academic researchers, the order said, are not reliable enough to “evaluate” policy proposals about enforcing immigration laws and changing eligibility rules for public benefits.

“Data tabulating both the overall population and the citizen population could be combined with records of aliens lawfully present in the country to generate an estimate of the aggregate number of aliens unlawfully present in each State,” said Trump’s order, which Biden reversed last month.

At the White House Rose Garden announcement for Trump’s directive, the then-head of the Justice Department, William Barr, made no direct mention of how the DOJ could use the data to enforce the Voting Rights Act. Instead, Barr made sure to highlight how the data “may be relevant” to a lawsuit filed in 2018 by the state of Alabama “over whether illegal aliens can be included for apportionment purposes.”

FAIR’s underground beginnings

These signals from the Trump administration echoed arguments FAIR first made more than 40 years ago.

Toward the end of the 1970s, FAIR was a fledgling advocacy group desperate to emerge from a windowless basement office in Washington, D.C., as a national voice.

The U.S. was more than a decade into major demographic shifts: A greater and greater share of people living inside the U.S. were born elsewhere, and a predominantly white population was becoming less so.

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 had ended an earlier quota system that favored people from Northern and Western Europe, while also imposing the first caps on the number of people allowed to enter from Mexico and other countries in the Western Hemisphere. The landmark law, along with the end of a legal program for temporary farmworkers from Mexico, helped usher in a rise in immigration, both legal and illegal, from Latin America, Asia and other parts of the world.

That led John Tanton — an eye doctor from a mostly white resort town along Lake Michigan who held a particular interest in population control as a form of environmentalism — to start FAIR.

The group’s calls for an end to illegal immigration and fewer legal pathways for newcomers were not met with fanfare.

“We were obviously very small fish in a very big pond, and so got little attention,” Tanton later recalled in an oral history interview that touched on FAIR’s early days working underground with less than a handful of staffers.

To try to make a splash, FAIR went to court in December 1979.

Its federal lawsuit against former President Jimmy Carter’s administration called for a citizenship question to be included on both the long and short versions of the 1980 census form. The responses, FAIR argued, would generate a count of noncitizens that could eventually produce a state-by-state tally of unauthorized immigrants by matching noncitizens with green cards to government records.

Concerned about persistent undercounts, some census advocates at the time focused their energy on encouraging unauthorized immigrants to participate in the count.

Conner, FAIR’s first executive director, recalls reading a 1979 newspaper article about that effort and says FAIR sued partly out of concern that including unauthorized immigrants in the apportionment counts would increase the political power of “institutions that would favor the perpetuation, the expansion of immigration.”

Roger Conner, shown here in 1981, led the Federation for American Immigration Reform as its first executive director until 1988. Now a woodworker in Nashville, Tenn., Conner condemns Trump officials’ efforts to alter census apportionment counts. “I can only understand it as a pure expression of racism and evil,” Conner says. “And yet I have to own I took this same position 40 years ago.”

Still, in a 1980 statement to the House Judiciary subcommittee on immigation, Conner wrote that while FAIR wants unauthorized immigrants excluded from apportionment, it also “supports and encourages a full and accurate counting of illegal immigrants in the 1980 Census.”

“This is a difficult and perhaps impossible undertaking,” Conner added, “but it should nevertheless be worthwhile to attempt to gather more accurate information than we now possess about the number and characteristics of illegal immigrants within the United States.”

Finding lawyers in Washington willing to make FAIR’s arguments in court, though, was not easy.

“I had to explain to them why limiting immigration was the right thing, and FAIR wasn’t a racist group,” Conner explained in a 1989 oral history interview documented in the organization’s archives. “It was a lost cause.”

“The language of the Constitution is not ambiguous”

FAIR’s last-minute lawsuit eventually paid off in terms of media attention. It garnered a radio segment on NPR’s Morning Edition and a front-page, below-the-fold story in The New York Times, among other news coverage.

But the case was tossed out of a lower court, and the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal. FAIR and the other plaintiffs did not have a right to sue, the three-judge panel of the lower court in D.C. ruled. And their case, the panel noted, appeared “very weak on the merits.”

“The language of the Constitution is not ambiguous,” the judges wrote in their opinion. “It requires the counting of the ‘whole number of persons’ for apportionment purposes, and while illegal aliens were not a component of the population at the time the Constitution was adopted, they are clearly ‘persons.’ ”

Going back to the 1920s, the judges pointed out, there have been multiple attempts to leave unauthorized immigrants and other noncitizens out of the apportionment counts. But with no change to the country’s founding document, they have all failed. Their opinion quotes the remarks of Rep. Emanuel Celler, a Democrat from New York, during a 1940 House debate over whether unauthorized immigrants could be omitted:

“The Constitution says that all persons shall be counted. I cannot quarrel with the founding fathers. They said that all should be counted. We count the convicts who are just as dangerous and just as bad as the Communists or as the Nazis, as those aliens here illegally, and I would not come here and have the temerity to say that the convicts shall be excluded, if the founding fathers say they shall be included. The only way we can exclude them would be to pass a constitutional amendment.”

Sen. David Reed, a Republican from Pennsylvania, came to the same conclusion more than a decade earlier in the 1920s.

After the 1920 census, reapportioning House seats was so heated, in fact, that for the first time in U.S. history the process didn’t happen at all that decade. The Republican majority of a mostly rural Congress stalled on the constitutional mandate, refusing to use numbers that confirmed the U.S. had become a predominantly urban nation.

Weeks before lawmakers passed the 1929 law that turned reapportionment into an automatic process after the 1930 count, Reed took part in a Senate debate over whether “aliens,” including unauthorized immigrants, could be excluded from the counts.

Reed was a namesake and architect of the Johnson-Reed Act, also known as the Immigration Act of 1924 that was designed to suppress people from Eastern and Southern Europe, and completely stop people from Asia, from immigrating to the U.S.

“I disagree to the bottom of my heart,” Reed emphasized on the Senate floor, with the Constitution’s original framers and the 14th Amendment’s drafters choosing to use the term “persons” in their apportionment instructions instead of “citizens” or “voters who actually have cast their votes at the last general election.”

But Reed could not support a bill amendment for excluding unauthorized immigrants and other noncitizens because, the senator said, “the oath which we take to support the Constitution includes the obligation to support it when we dislike its provisions as well as when we are in sympathy with them.”

“It is literally now or never”

Despite losing in the courts, FAIR tried to muster support for more legal action after its 1979 lawsuit.

Tanton, FAIR’s founder, looked for donors to stand up a $50,000 a year litigation program. In a 1980 letter written to a potential funder before FAIR’s appeal ended, Tanton said that if their census lawsuit failed, “illegals will have Representatives beholden to them, effectively foreclosing any chance of stemming their influx. It is literally now or never: the decision rests on those of us who understand the problem.”

The census lawsuit was a tool for getting “middle America” to support FAIR’s work, Tanton later explained in a 1981 letter to an attorney who helped start the group’s litigation program, by showing them that immigration was a “problem” not just for states like Texas, California and Florida.

In the same letter, Tanton floated the possibility of also pushing for the exclusion of green card holders, who are authorized to permanently stay in the U.S., and carrying out “citizen-only reapportionment,” which “would further sweeten FAIR’s prospects by shifting seats away from areas where politicians are compromised by an immigrant constituency.”

According to records in FAIR’s archives, though, the group stayed focused on the exclusion of unauthorized immigrants. One of FAIR’s attorneys tried to persuade the states of Indiana and Missouri, which each lost a vote in the House and Electoral College after the 1980 census, as well as Alabama and Georgia, to sue over the apportionment results, and Conner, FAIR’s first executive director, worked on selling the idea to the organization’s board of directors.

“This lawsuit, with a potential for altering the 1984 Presidential election, will garner an inordinate amount of publicity,” Conner wrote in an internal memo that year, suggesting the attention would be “extremely useful as a device to shift the news media focus” toward “the problems caused by illegal migration” and away from criticism of a FAIR-backed proposal for sanctions against employers who hire unauthorized immigrants.

Even so, it would take four more years before FAIR filed its second lawsuit over census apportionment counts. In 1988, it challenged the administration of former President Ronald Reagan over its plans for the 1990 census. This time, FAIR was joined by the states of Alabama, Kansas and Pennsylvania, as well as a more high-profile lead plaintiff — U.S. Rep. Tom Ridge, the Republican congressman from Pennsylvania who later became the state’s governor and the country’s first homeland security secretary.

In an attempt to recruit lawmakers to their cause, FAIR targeted delegations from states that were projected to lose House seats if the apportionment counts were altered to leave out unauthorized immigrants. FAIR emphasized that if successful, the lawsuit would not hurt states’ bottom lines. Unauthorized immigrants would still be counted in the census numbers used to guide the distribution of federal grants to states, just not in the counts for dividing up House seats and electoral votes.

But the outcome in court turned out the same: The case was dismissed without a trial.

Still, Tanton was not ready to give up. Months after that loss in 1989, Tanton wrote a letter to the head of FAIR’s legal arm, the Immigration Reform Law Institute, about a news report on the likelihood of Michigan losing two House seats after the 1990 census.

“This stirs the pot,” Tanton said, “and again makes me wonder about refiling the census suit[,] say from Michigan, after the results are announced and before apportionment takes place when the actual shift of seats will be known. How complex would this be?”

“Trying to stop” the “browning of America”

The year before FAIR lost its second attempt to exclude unauthorized immigrants through the courts, Tanton came under public scrutiny. A 1988 article in The Arizona Republic revealed that he had denigrated Latinos and warned of a “Latin onslaught” in a memo written for an immigration conference.

“How will we make the transition from a dominant non-Hispanic society with a Spanish influence to a dominant Spanish society with non-Hispanic influence?” asked Tanton, who, until he died in July 2019, was listed on FAIR’s website as a member of its national board of advisers. “As Whites see their power and control over their lives declining, will they simply go quietly into the night? Or will there be an explosion?”

“What they were trying to stop was the browning of America,” says Arnoldo Torres, who was a vocal critic of FAIR’s policies as the executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens until 1985.

Among FAIR’s policy positions — which over the years have included opposing pathways to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants and ending the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of birthright citizenship — altering the census apportionment counts was “not the issue that they led off with,” but was “always an undercurrent,” Torres recalls. “This was not a passing fancy.”

“They were in for the long haul. They knew they were not going to get it right away,” Torres says. “They knew eventually that the tide would change.”

In the meantime, FAIR developed plans to change the apportionment process and get a count of unauthorized immigrants through the two other branches of government, having so far failed in the courts. An internal report prepared for FAIR’s board of directors in October 1987 called it a “three-pronged approach.”

One strategy included lobbying Congress to require the Census Bureau to “differentiate illegal aliens from citizens and legal residents on its questionnaire” for the head count, Simin Yazdgerdi, FAIR’s then-director of government relations, wrote in the report.

During an August 1987 strategy session, FAIR determined its legislative strategy “should be conducted quietly so that the courts would not be tempted to a) delay making a decision until Congress had acted; or b) use any negative legislative history (i.e., floor statements, testimony) against us,” according to an internal memo by Yazdgerdi.

“Emphasize how Republicans will be hurt most by inclusion of illegal aliens,” the memo specified about how to persuade the Reagan administration’s Justice Department and Office of Management and Budget to “influence” the Census Bureau.

While FAIR may have expected a more receptive audience among GOP members, support for omitting unauthorized immigrants from apportionment did not fall neatly along party lines in the 1980s.

In fact, among the plaintiffs joining Rep. Ridge in FAIR’s lawsuit before the 1990 census were House Democrats from Alabama, Connecticut, Kansas, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Before the suit was filed, Ridge and Democratic Rep. Barbara Kennelly of Connecticut spearheaded a 1987 House bill that called for excluding unauthorized immigrants and including U.S. military and civilian Defense Department employees stationed abroad, who at the time were not expected to be counted for apportionment.

In 1988, the Justice Department told lawmakers that it opposed the bill because excluding unauthorized immigrants from the apportionment counts, it concluded, is unconstitutional. “If it were passed, we would recommend that the President veto it,” wrote then-Acting Assistant Attorney General Thomas Boyd, a Reagan appointee.

The House bill stayed stuck in committee, but it had bipartisan support, including from Democratic cosponsors from Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio and Texas.

“It’s hard to explain to people. The Democrats were aligned with organized labor [and] didn’t want immigrants,” says Antonia Hernández, who opposed FAIR on immigration policy as president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund for close to two decades beginning in 1985. MALDEF tried to intervene in FAIR’s 1988 lawsuit to defend the inclusion of unauthorized immigrants in apportionment counts.

As for the third prong of FAIR’s strategy, the group mapped out the possibility of a “favorable White House decision” that would instruct the Census Bureau to collect information on people’s immigration status, according to the group’s 1987 board report. But that path did not open until Trump became president 30 years later.

“The efforts have been clumsy”

After the 1990 census, FAIR shifted its focus toward Congress given its lack of headway in the courts and with presidential administrations.

“You don’t want to involve yourself in quixotic efforts that are doomed to fail,” says Stein, the group’s president who first joined FAIR in 1982.

But FAIR’s calculations changed after Trump won.

After entering office, the Trump administration put in place many hard-line immigration proposals long championed by FAIR and the network of organizations that grew from it — including cutting the number of refugees allowed to resettle in the U.S. down to historic lows. Former FAIR staffers, including Julie Kirchner, who became the ombudsman at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services after running FAIR for nearly a decade as its executive director, also joined the administration’s ranks.

Though Trump’s White House press office did not respond to NPR’s questions about whether the administration consulted with FAIR on its push to exclude unauthorized immigrants from apportionment counts, Stein says: “It was certainly part of our legislative plan for the new administration back in November of 2016.”

Hernández, MALDEF’s former president, says that the lack of comprehensive immigration reform helped thrust the apportionment issue front and center during the Trump administration. “It’s just gained steam and gained steam,” Hernández says.

In the decades since its basement beginnings, FAIR has expanded into a suite of offices near the U.S. Capitol, across the street from the office of the USCIS director. FAIR’s staff, including its legal arm, now totals 36, according to spokesperson Matthew Tragesser.

With the Trump administration in power, FAIR gained an invaluable advantage — a ready and willing partner inside the federal government during the final 2020 census planning stages.

“What they haven’t been yet able to do through the courts, they’ve been able to do through the executive branch,” Hernández says. “And they’ve been in such a hurry to do something, the efforts have been clumsy.”

The administration’s inconsistency was on full display during the citizenship question lawsuits. Public statements about Voting Rights Act enforcement fronted behind-the-scenes discussions about altering census numbers for House seat reapportionment.

A redacted August 2017 email appeared to foreshadow what became the administration’s ultimate strategy — citing a 1992 Supreme Court rulingto argue that the president has the discretion to decide whether to include unauthorized immigrants in the apportionment counts.

“Ultimately, we do not make decisions on how the data should be used for apportionment, that is for Congress (or possibly the President) to decide,” wrote then-Commerce Department attorney James Uthmeier. “I think that’s our hook here.”

Then, while testifying under oath about the citizenship question in 2018, Trump officials could not avoid bringing up apportionment.

John Gore — a Justice Department appointee at the time who testified that adding the citizenship question to census forms was not necessary for enforcing the Voting Rights Act — confirmed that when Jeff Sessions was U.S. attorney general, there was discussion at the highest levels of the DOJ about reapportioning House seats using “some other measure” than the total number of residents in each state.

Trump himself tied the push for a citizenship question to apportionment the same day the White House released the July 2020 presidential memo about excluding unauthorized immigrants. In a written statement, Trump said:

“Last summer in the Rose Garden, I told the American people that I would not back down in my effort to determine the citizenship status of the United States population. Today, I am following through on that commitment by directing the Secretary of Commerce to exclude illegal aliens from the apportionment base following the 2020 census.”

Some career Census Bureau officials suspected that Trump’s memo helped drive the administration to suddenly direct the bureau to rush counting last summer and cut back on quality checks for the 2020 census results, a report by the Commerce inspector general’s officerevealed. The administration appeared desperate to get a hold of census results before the end of Trump’s term in case Biden won the election.

Practical challenges

Despite posing serious threats to the count’s accuracy and the bureau’s credibility as a statistical agency, Trump’s memo, like the administration’s other census efforts, largely flew under the radar, frequently sidelined by other controversies.

At a press conference in July, hours after the release of a memo calling for the unprecedented exclusion of unauthorized immigrants from the apportionment counts, not a single reporter asked Trump a question about the directive.

Weeks later, federal courts began declaring the memo unlawful and in some of the cases, unconstitutional as well. After the Supreme Court agreed to squeeze in a hearing for the Trump administration’s appeal last fall, though, the high court’s conservative majority ruled it was too early to weigh in.

In the end, timing and bureaucracy thwarted Trump’s plans to alter the latest state population counts. The administration tried to pressure the Census Bureau to prematurely end quality checks, which were delayed by the coronavirus pandemic. But career civil servants postponed releasing the first set of census results after unearthing incomplete and duplicate responses.

As the inauguration of President Biden drew closer, another reality was setting in that made Trump’s apportionment plan practically impossible. The Census Bureau could only come up with reliable numbers for a fraction of the unauthorized immigrant population in the U.S.

Still, even during its final days in office, the administration did not give up on trying to get state-by-state figures of unauthorized immigrants and other noncitizens. A last-minute push by the Trump-appointed Census Bureau director, Steven Dillingham — as well as two controversial appointees, Nathaniel Cogley and Benjamin Overholtsparked whistleblower complaints about demands to produce “statistically indefensible” data, and Dillingham ultimately resigned.

Without a citizenship or immigration status question on the 2020 census forms, government records the Trump administration directed the bureau to use could only generate a state-by-state count of unauthorized immigrants in detention centers.

For the rest of the population, the bureau could produce estimates. But the methods it would have to use are saddled with “difficult-to-verify assumptions” and could “introduce substantial imprecision” to the census results, top career officials warned in a March 2020 memo.

“It is our professional judgement that these methods produce estimates of the undocumented foreign-born population at the state level that could inform policy makers,” but they may not be usable when reapportioning House seats because they require the use of statistical sampling, which is not allowed, wrote John Abowd, the bureau’s chief scientist, and Victoria Velkoff, associate director of the bureau’s demographic programs.

The bureau has also warned, for decades, that using the national head count to identify unauthorized immigrants could undermine public trust in the federal statistical agency. That, in turn, could exacerbate historical undercounts of immigrants and people of color and reduce their areas’ share of census-guided federal funding.

“We realize that our job would be made still harder … if we had an image of being an investigative unit,” Leo Estrada, who was serving as a special assistant to the bureau’s deputy director, told NPR in 1980 in response to FAIR’s first apportionment lawsuit.

Producing figures of unauthorized immigrants should be a “job for some other agency,” Estrada said.

The bureau has shelved the Trump administration’s project for creating unauthorized immigrant counts. But that work could play a role in the ongoing lawsuit by the state of Alabama and U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, a Republican from that state who voted against certifying Biden’s victory in the 2020 election and told crowds at a rally before the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol that it was the day for “taking down names and kicking ass.”

Biden’s executive order has restored the longstanding policy of including all residents regardless of immigration status in apportionment counts. But Brooks and the office of Alabama State Attorney General Steve Marshall are still trying to convince U.S. District Judge R. David Proctor to order unauthorized immigrants to be left out.

The future of “we the people”

For Conner, FAIR’s first executive director, it’s long past time to end this fight.

More than four decades after helping to launch FAIR’s campaign, Conner says he has since come to recognize the long ties many unauthorized immigrants have to the U.S.

“When you say ‘we the people of the United States,’ you have to include them,” Conner says.

Now a woodworker based in Nashville, Tenn., Conner condemns the Trump administration’s immigration enforcement for not focusing on deterring employers from hiring unauthorized workers.

“For this administration to take up the census lawsuit after they have subverted any effort to recognize the implicit invitation for immigrants to come undocumented to this country to work, to live,” Conner says, “I can only understand it as a pure expression of racism and evil. And yet I have to own I took this same position 40 years ago.”

FAIR, however, remains committed to changing who is counted in apportionment and obtaining numbers of unauthorized immigrants in the U.S.

“You want to have as much data as possible about the fiscal, environmental and societal impacts of immigration,” says Stein, FAIR’s president.

Stein acknowledges the stakes of bringing this issue before the highest court in the land. If the justices declared that reapportioning House seats and electoral votes without unauthorized immigrants is unconstitutional, FAIR would have to resort to advocating for a constitutional amendment, which Stein calls a “very heavy lift.”

But the Trump administration left office with no definitive Supreme Court ruling on its plan to alter counts that, according to the Constitution, must include the “whole number of persons in each state.”

That leaves the door open for Alabama’s lawsuit and any future legal challenges to test their limits in the courts. And as planning ramps up for the 2030 census, it leaves behind a lingering question: How much further could FAIR’s campaign go if another president in line with its ambitions enters the White House?

Source: Immigration Hard-Liner Files Reveal 40-Year Bid Behind Trump’s Census Obsession

Perception and reality across Canada’s urban-rural divide

This divide also maps neatly with age, percentage of immigrants and visible minorities, and political leanings:

Canadian policy-makers and citizens must be more attuned to the potential for rising political polarization in our democracy. It would be wrong to assume that the country is immune to the forces that are fracturing politics in the United States and elsewhere.

One potential fault line in Canadian society is our urban-rural divide. Voting patterns increasingly point to divergent political preferences along these place-based lines. In the 2019 federal election, the median population density for the 157 Liberal ridings was more than 38 times higher than that of the 121 Conservative ridings.

Yet, notwithstanding these different political outcomes, we don’t know much about the extent to which urban and rural Canadians actually think differently about politics, public policy, the country’s economic prospects or broader social trends. There’s little polling or other forms of empirical analysis to help us understand these questions.

Two new reports from the Public Policy Forum (Perceptions and Polarization and Fault Lines and Common Ground) aim to establish such an evidence base for understanding the urban-rural divide in Canada. The reports use survey data to (1) see how urban, suburban and rural Canadians perceive one another’s circumstances, experiences and perspectives and (2) determine whether there are actual differences in their economic, cultural and political viewpoints.

This exercise in measuring and comparing perception versus reality is highly relevant because research shows that distorted perceptions not only fuel polarization, but that polarization can in turn lead to even more distorted perceptions. The result is a vicious cycle that can contribute to rising political polarization and further social attenuation.

Let’s start with Canadians’ perceptions. Our research used a sliding-scale methodology to produce a “perception score” across 11 specific topics (such as unemployment, immigration and the prevalence of conservative social values). Respondents were presented with a scale ranging from 0 to 100, where 0 was “a lot less than the Canadian average,” 50 was “average,” and 100 was “a lot more than the Canadian average.” Scores of more than 50 indicate that respondents think Canadians in some places are above the average on a particular measure, while scores below 50 indicate that they believe Canadians in some places are below the average.

What did we find? Canadians perceive significant place-based differences in these economic, cultural and political issues.

Take economic growth, for instance. Respondents held broadly similar perceptions that cities have experienced much-higher-than-average economic growth, suburbs have had higher-than-average economic growth, and rural communities are far-below-average growth. The average “perception score” was 63.1 for cities, 57.5 for suburbs, and 44.2 for rural communities. This is 19-point gap conveys that Canadians perceive significant differences in the economic conditions between big cities and small towns.

These perceptions of significant place-based differences are something that policy-makers ought to be cognizant of. The risk is that these perceived differences contribute over time to a lack of common experiences and perspectives, and in turn a diminished sense of cohesion and unity.

What’s interesting, however, is that while respondents perceived significant place-based variations among urban, suburban and rural places, these perceptions were widely held across places. That is to say our perceptions don’t seem affected by where we live. Urban, suburban and rural perceptions of one another’s experiences and perspectives tend to cluster in a narrow range. The economic growth example works here as well. Respondents from all three types of places – urban (66.0), suburban (63.9) and rural (62.3) – perceive economic growth is highest in urban cities. We share a broadly similar understanding of how our fellow citizens think, live, work and vote.

As we observe in the paper, these differences fall broadly along a continuum between optimism and anxiety, openness and closedness, and modernism and tradition.

What about urban and rural Canadians’ actual circumstances, experiences and perspectives?

Our analysis, which draws on data from the Canadian Election Study, finds considerable common ground between urban and rural Canadians on a number of cultural, economic and political issues. Most place-based disagreements on matters of policy and politics are best measured by degree rather than fundamental principle.

Yet there are a handful of issues – including the state of the economy; environmental policy;  immigration and diversity; values and tradition; and trust in government – where consistent and significant place-based differences are evident.

As we observe in the paper, these differences fall broadly along a continuum between optimism and anxiety, openness and closedness, and modernism and tradition. They no doubt reflect to some degree a combination of differing economic circumstances and psychological dispositions rooted in urban and rural experiences and perspectives. The process of self-selection inherent in migration patterns invariably reinforces these differences. The basic idea here is that people with similar backgrounds, interests and economic prospects tend to cluster in the same places. American writer Will Wilkinson has described this tendency and its sociopolitical consequences as the “density divide.” It’s quite possible therefore that we’ll continue to see divergence along these continuums in the future.

There are two reasonable ways to interpret these data: positive and negative.

The positive interpretation is that although Canadians perceive significant place-based differences on matters of economics, culture and politics, these perceptions are commonly held and are generally unaffected by where one lives. More importantly, the evidence suggests that these perceptions may be overstated. Urban and rural views are broadly similar across a wide range of policy and political issues from assisted death to free trade.

The upshot: The evidence tells us that there is more that connects us than separates us — no matter whether we live in a big city or a small town.

The negative interpretation is that Canadians’ perceptions of significant place-based differences on matters of economics, culture and politics are reflected in differing views on key issues including the state of the economy; climate policy; immigration and diversity; values and tradition; and trust in government. These differences are important because (1) they manifest themselves in polarized voting patterns and (2) they represent issues that are associated with the rise of populism and polarization elsewhere.

The risk, of course, is that we experience a growing urban-rural divide driven by a complex relationship between perception and reality on these key hot-button issues. The consequence could be a significant place-based polarization that fractures the country along urban-rural lines.

It’s too early to know which interpretation will ultimately be correct. That answer will depend on whether Canada’s political parties, our policy-makers and citizens are prepared to build bridges across these divides and cultivate a politics of empathy, unity and respect.

The first step is understanding perception and reality across Canada’s urban-rural divide. We hope that these new reports are a useful contribution to such an ongoing effort.

Source: Perception and reality across Canada’s urban-rural divide