Citizenship and the Census

There is an ongoing debate about whether the citizenship question should be added to the 2020 census. There are many who believe that it is an important question. There are also those who believe the question will discourage participation or skew the results. Lost in the debate is one group of individuals that no one seems to have noticed. There are many people living in the United States today who are not U.S. citizens but are legally in the country.

So, what does this say about the citizenship question?

The U.S. Constitution (Article I, Section 2) mandates that a census be taken every ten years. The Constitution states that the counting of the population in the country is so that “representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States,” according to the results of the census. In other words, the number of elected representatives is determined by how many people are in each state. Obviously the larger the census count the more representation in Congress the state receives.

The obvious question is, does the count only apply to U.S. citizens or is it for everyone living in the jurisdiction? Let us put aside, for the moment, the question of undocumented immigrants and whether they should be counted. In today’s post, we will focus only on individuals living legally in the country.

It is important to point out that you do not have to be a U.S. citizen to live legally in the country.

I am a citizen of Mexico. I am not a U.S. citizen. I pay the same taxes as all U.S. citizens. I live legally in the country. I can make political donations. I can support candidates. Yet, I cannot vote.

However, I would argue, like the original settlers, that I should have equal representation in Congress especially for tax purposes.

The census determines the number of people in a jurisdiction so that the House of Representatives can be divided accordingly.

If the citizenship question were to be included in the census what would be the result for my truthful answer as to not being a U.S. citizen?

Would I not be included in the final tally to allocate House of Representatives?

Would I be visited by the Border Patrol, although I legally live in the country?

As you can see, the citizenship question is more than a simple question. The lack of questions of how it would affect individuals like me demonstrates the lack of knowledge about the immigration situation in America.

Many people believe that there are only two types of immigrants, legal and undocumented not realizing that there are many others that do not fit that neat mold.

It is not as simple as “doing it the right way”.

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