President Trump put country first last week in ending his quest to include a citizenship question in the 2020 census. He returned to where his administration appeared to stand two weeks ago when the Justice Department announced the printing of census forms would proceed without the question. The absence of the question means the Census Bureau is better positioned to deliver an accurate count, or an “actual enumeration” of persons living here, as the Constitution requires.
The president didn’t get to this position easily. He initially balked at the Justice announcement, insisting the administration was “absolutely moving forward, as we must, because of the importance of the answer to this question.” In conceding on Thursday, he charged that opponents are “trying to erase the very existence of a very important word and a very important thing, citizenship.”
One day after pulling back on the citizenship question, the president talked about “a major operation,” starting Sunday, involving nationwide raids to arrest and deport undocumented immigrants. This effort raises the worry: How much damage has been done? In that way, the citizenship controversy looks like another vehicle for stirring fear, deterring immigrant participation in the census to Republican advantage.
Thus, it is pleasing to see state and local officials mobilizing to promote participation. The census doesn’t belong as a partisan endeavor. It is an opportunity for the country to rally behind an accurate count, helping to ensure federal money is spent properly and political boundaries are drawn fairly. Many businesses and other organizations depend on census numbers for decision-making. So the country is well served going ahead without a citizenship question.
The Akron Beacon Journal