The average person doesn’t think much about the US Census until they receive an envelope in the mail.
When Congress develops its annual budget, it has to account for every federal agency in the nation, as well as money it owes to states and other local governments as a result of agreements and programs it supports. Taxpayers and elected officials alike lobby Congress regularly for funding for some new program or initiative that they think tax dollars should support. This link shows how many federal agencies exist. Keep in mind that Congress only has 17 enumerated powers if you include Necessary and Proper.
Consider that out of the entire population of the US, there’s a segment of the population that believes that all of those agencies need to exist for one reason or another despite the unconstitutionality of many of them.
One of the crucial determinants of population, whether it’s of an entire state, or a municipality is representation. In our constitutional republic, we elect lawmakers to represent us at both the state and federal level. Part of why we have elections is for the people to choose who represents them to government and will push for legislation they want. The other reason to have elections to ensure that the seat can be refreshed periodically.
Last year, the Trump administration made a request to the Census bureau to restore the asking of citizenship to the 2020 census. The LGBTQ community was incensed when news outlets released that the 2020 census would not include a way for them to identify as such, including if they were married. Snopes, a site who has made strides in researching hoaxes, determined that the community has never been on the census.
Between the inclusion of the citizenship question and the exclusion of the LGBTQ community, people began to wonder if the Trump Census bureau had an ulterior motive.
From a constitutional standpoint, the census must be done every ten years, but there’s never been a definitive rubric for what must be on it:
“The actual enumeration shall be made within three years after the first meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent term of 10 years, in such manner as they shall by Law direct.”
The Census Department requires all agents to take an oath of confidentiality:
When hired to work for the Census Bureau, employees must sign a Sworn Affidavit of Nondisclosure.
This obligates those hired to accept the responsibility of keeping all Title 13 data confidential. This constitutes a lifetime obligation, continuing even if you are no longer affiliated with the Census Bureau.
“I will not disclose any information contained in the schedules, lists, or statements obtained for or prepared by the Census Bureau to any person or persons either during or after employment.”
Under federal law, the penalty for unlawful disclosure is a fine of not more than $250,000 or imprisonment for not more than 5 years, or both.
From a policy standpoint, there’s no reason why the census shouldn’t include the LGBTQ community, much like it has no reason to exclude any community or group of people. If the purpose of the census is to get an accurate count of the number of individuals who reside in this nation, there’s no reason that those people shouldn’t be able to tell the federal government that they identify as such.
The Williams Institute out of UCLA has the LGBTQ population percentage at 3.8% as of 2016. That percentage may seem small, but considering it was only two years ago that same-sex marriage became the law of the land, and that close to six years ago, the SCOTUS struck down a federal definition of marriage, it’s safe to say that they’re a community eager to be represented in government statistics.
The citizenship question has raised much ire because of President Trump’s hard stance on illegal aliens and his rescinding the DACA program. As it stands right now, the sentiment among Americans is that young people who were brought here illegally by their parents should be allowed to stay.
Having citizenship data can be valuable on multiple accounts:
- Getting an idea of how many immigrants have been naturalized in the last ten years.
- Learning just how many people have immigrated to the US, what kind of authorization they had, and what they’ve done with their life.
- There are a number of ways someone can be considered an illegal alien and it’s important to discern between those who came over with authorization and those who didn’t.
- Policymakers can use citizenship data to make changes to immigration laws to fix a system that many claim is broken.
Finally, a popular argument is that data on illegals would make them easier to find and deport, but the process isn’t as fundamental considering immigrations officials rely on cooperation from local authorities. Additionally, illegal aliens enjoy many of the same constitutional rights that American citizens do even if they did break the law by arriving. In short, illegals and Dreamers (they’re technically two different categories) have nothing to fear by identifying as such.
Regardless of which questions appear on the Census, it shouldn’t be politicized to further agendas and it shouldn’t exclude detail on the grounds of relevance.