Including noncitizens in census devalues votes of citizens, unjustly alters House representation and threatens to undermine democracy, The Associated Press (AP) reported in June.
The census, which determines the distribution of U.S. House representatives, is scheduled to begin on July 1. If the census were allowed to include noncitizens, a House vote would likely be skewed in the party with which the census winner is affiliated.
Under the Citizenship Act of 1795, enacted in a series of four acts, Congress authorized the census to collect citizenship information.
For the census to meet the goal of making the nation more “diverse,” Congress required that the census gather citizenship data for citizens and ineligible immigrants. Specifically, it directed the census to include an eligible person’s national birth certificate, citizenship papers, or other “proof of citizenship.”
It also ordered the Census Bureau to provide citizenship data to schools and other agencies that help identify citizens. Even the Census Bureau’s most ardent supporters acknowledged that the law “is complicated.”
But in 2001, the Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional, declaring that the citizenship requirements for Congress and the Census Bureau violated the Constitution’s requirement that the census count everyone in the country equally.
In 2006, President George W. Bush issued an executive order directing the Census Bureau to remove information on citizenship from the census to avoid “distorting the political process.”
“We’ve gone as far as we can go with the Census Act,” said James Sherk, a senior fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute and a former Census Bureau statistician.
“Census data must not be used in any way to make decisions about which party gets an advantage in the elections,” he told the AP.
“There’s nothing there in the law that would allow Congress to manipulate how the census is run,” Sherk said. “[But] I think there’s a fair argument that the census could be used for that purpose.”
He said a more important argument was that the Census Bureau had already asked a variety of questions on citizenship to assess the citizenship status of U.S. residents and that there will be nothing to gain by putting those data into the census now.