Hostility to Census Question Is Overblown

COMMENTARY Civil Society

Hostility to Census Question Is Overblown

Jan 11th, 2018 1 min read
COMMENTARY BY
Mike Gonzalez

Senior Fellow, The Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute

Mike Gonzalez is a senior fellow at the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies.
Asking about one’s immigration status is a modest, commonsense reform. Zheka-Boss

By asking the Census Bureau to provide a question on citizenship, the Trump administration is simply trying to get accurate information on the American population. It’s not new; previous Censuses have asked this question. Hostility to this limited reform is overblown, though unfortunately to be expected.

Leading the opposition is a cabal of special-interest organizations that are used to tightly controlling the Census through advisory committees. Late last year, they hyperventilated at news that the administration was considering academic Thomas Brunell for the deputy director position at the Census Bureau.

They are on the front lines of resisting anything the administration will try to do with the Census. This time they are insisting, without proof, that asking a question on citizenship will reduce responses among immigrants.

The change is modest.

An even better reform would be to do away with questions on pan-ethnic groups — such as Hispanics, Asians, Pacific Islanders and one being proposed for Middle Easterners. But progressive lobbyists such as La Raza, NALEO and many others insist on dividing “We the People” into separate groups.

Rather than asking people to identify by ancestry, the Census should be about establishing the American demos, those who embrace America’s destiny by agreeing to participate in it as citizens — as one people.

It helps to remember the reason we have the Census. The very Indo-European root of the word census means “to evoke in speech, almost to call a thing into existence by naming it.”

A census’ key contribution to democracy — or rule by the people — is thus to provide the demos, to answer the existential question of what constitutes a people.

America's Founders understood this, which is why they required one in Article 1 of the Constitution. Asking about one’s immigration status is a modest, commonsense reform.

This piece originally appeared in USA Today