Lack of trust is the most significant barrier to a complete Census count in 2020.  The Secretary of State is leading statewide efforts to build awareness about the coming Census, and I will continue to share information to support those efforts.

We are only months away from the 2020 Census, and Census Bureau personnel are already sending out test forms to some residents.  I heard from one constituent who received one of these forms by mail asking if it was legitimate. This constituent is a well-informed native-born citizen with a lot of experience with government. 

Residents who are not native born – whether properly documented or not — often greet Census Bureau outreach with even greater mistrust.  The President’s daily rhetorical attacks on immigrants further elevate that mistrust. 

The constitutional mandate of the Census Bureau is to count persons
where they live and sleep most of the time” in the United States, with or without documentation.  It will be harder for the Bureau to accomplish that in 2020 than in many of the past 23 decennial Censuses. 

As hard as a complete count is going to be anyway, the Trump administration seems intent on directly interfering with the process with the goal of increasing the number of Republican representatives in Congress.    

The number of representatives in Congress apportioned to each state is a function of the total Census count of persons in the state (without regard to immigration status).  First, every state, even those that are smaller than the average Congressional district, gets at least one member in Congress. Then seats are allocated by a process designed to assure that Congressional Districts in all states are roughly the same in population count.   Undercounting low-trust populations could lead to a state having less representation in Congress.   To the extent low trust populations vote Democratic, then undercounting them will favor a Republican majority in Congress.

Further, the balance of Democrats and Republicans elected to Congress within each state depends heavily on how district lines are drawn.  Congressional district lines are drawn to assure that the population of each district is equal.  Lines will be drawn based on the block level Census counts that come out in April 2021.  Again, if the Census undercounts immigrants or other minorities, then districts will be drawn that give them less representation in Congress.

Almost as soon as he took office, President Trump’s Secretary of Commerce began working to add a question about citizenship status to the Census.  While citizenship questions have been included in some prior Censuses, in recent decades, Census Bureau officials have viewed the question as likely to depress response rates.  In the 2020 climate, according to officials cited by the Justice Breyer (see page 9-13), the question could have a very great effect – perhaps depressing the count of immigrants by hundreds of thousands.

The Supreme Court just rejected the proposed question.   The Secretary had explained his inclusion of the question as having been requested by the Department of Justice for analysis of citizenship in voting rights cases.  But the Court found that this was a pretext since he shopped the idea to a number of agencies before finally getting the Department of Justice to request it.  The Supreme Court said “[W]e cannot ignore the disconnect between the decision made and the explanation given. Our review is deferential, but we are not required to exhibit a naiveté from which ordinary citizens are free.”  A recent expose in the New York Times traced the proposed question back to a now deceased Republican political operative.  That expose was not part of the record before the Supreme Court, but certainly validates the court’s decision.

The question now becomes whether the Trump administration will allow the Census Bureau to move forward and do its critical and constitutionally-mandated job in a timely way.  As Chair of the Senate Redistricting Committee in Massachusetts, I’ll be watching closely and continuing to share information.

Update as of July 11

The final outcome here is that the Trump administration did ultimately take the right course of action, allowing the census to forward without the citizenship question, instead studying citizenship patterns using administrative records.

Responses to Comments (added 2:30PM on July 5)

Based on the range of comments below, I thought I should follow up to clarify some issues. 

Who gets to vote?  The right to vote in national elections belongs to citizens – people who were either born citizens or have made a commitment to the United States and passed the naturalization test.  States or cities could make a different rule for elections to their own offices, but that is not the question at hand and I personally support the fundamental idea that citizenship is a condition for voting.

Which persons count toward apportioning the seats in Congress among the states? The constitution states that representatives shall be apportioned to states based on the “whole number of persons.”  In context it is clear that persons means everyone, whether or not they have the right to vote.  There is little chance that this rule will change as a result of constitutional amendment or Supreme Court decision and I do not believe it should.

Which persons count toward drawing equal-population districts for seats in Congress within a state?  It would be hard to defend using one count for apportionment and a different count for redistricting of congressional districts, so I expect that for congressional redistricting, the “whole number of persons” construct will endure.  Conceivably, a state or locality could successfully defend using a different rule for its own elections, although I do not advocate that.

What difference does it make if immigrants (documented or undocumented) count equally with citizens in legislative apportionment and redistricting?  Whether counted or not, the non-citizens don’t vote and therefore are not going to get as much attention from their elected representatives.   The real consequence is that the voting citizens get a disproportionate vote: In a congressional district that has, let’s say 400,000 non-voting immigrants and 400,000 voting citizens, then the voting citizens get twice as much influence as the citizens in a district that consists of 800,000  voting citizens  – they get 1/400000 of the representative’s campaign attention instead of 1/800000.  Whether that favors Republicans or Democrats in any particular case depends on how the district lines are drawn and what group of citizens is placed in the same district as the non-citizen population.

Can we live with the possibility that any group of citizens might be overrepresented as a result of placement in a district with non-citizens?  My answer is yes: To put the question in perspective, there are other common ways that a particular group of citizens can get outsized influence.  For example, if citizens reside in a district that includes a large prison or is heavily populated by university students, who typically do not vote in state or local elections, then they will have an outsized vote. I would concede that over-representation of citizens (in districts with very high populations of non-citizens, prisoners or students)  could go beyond reasonable levels, and I don’t dismiss the concern out-of-hand, but at this point, my view is that we should keep the rules simple and continue to redistrict based on the count of whole persons.  And, of course, the census is used as a measure of economic and other needs as well as a measure of representation.  The needs of the district are not reduced by the fact that some of the people counted in it are non-voting.

Why has the possibility of asking a citizenship question become a political issue?   It does appear that some strategists in both parties believe that, while districts vary, citizens who are Democrats are more likely to be mixed in with non-citizens in neighborhoods with high concentrations of non-citizens.  In other words, on average, it is Democrats who benefit from the existing “whole persons” rule.  So, if the Supreme Court were to entertain the possibility of redistricting based on citizens only, instead of all persons, the change would advantage Republicans.  Certainly, that was the theory of the Republican strategist most connected to the proposed question – Tom Hofeller.  In my view, even a Supreme Court a couple of seats further to the right could not condone this approach for congressional districts:  The constitution is clear that all persons count for apportionment and probably, indirectly, for federal redistricting.  So the real advantages for Republicans of including the question would come if (a) asking the question were to scare non-citizens away from the census; (b) states were to be permitted to redistrict based on citizen counts. 

Why shouldn’t we ask a citizenship question on the census form? There is nothing per se wrong with asking a citizenship question on the census form.  It is certainly interesting information and has been asked in some prior censuses. The argument I find persuasive, based on the Supreme Court’s recent opinion, is that (a) because of the current climate of fear among immigrants (both documented and undocumented), asking a citizenship question would distort the basic count that is required by the constitution; (b) even if people in fear can be persuaded to complete the census form there is no reason to expect that they will answer a citizenship or documentation question accurately. Adding the question will overall degrade the quality of census responses without adding new accurate information. To the extent we are interested in citizenship rates for informational purposes, there are other administrative datasets that can give us insight.  So, the informational benefit is outweighed by the loss of count accuracy. 

Would the citizenship question tell us how many people are in the United States without documentation? No. It just asks whether a person is a citizen. If the answer is no, no more detail is requested.

While I have carefully considered the feedback I received on the issue, I respectfully continue to believe it is wiser to leave the citizenship question out.

Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

186 replies on “Trust and the Census”

  1. Thank you for your continual dedication to communicating with your constituents on so many diverse issues. We appreciate your work, hearing your opinions and getting educated as per this Census issue. Thank you!

    1. I will add my thanks as well. And for holding your temper! It is stuff like this that gets me mad.

      1. Frank, you know who is really mad and has every reason to be?
        The people who apply legally for admission to the US and wait for years for answer while illegals can just cross the border and are released into the population.
        Did you even consider this?
        Will didn’t either.
        He couldn’t care less.

        1. Do you have numbers on this? I’m an immigrant of the “legal” kind and tend to sympathize with the unauthorized immigrants. Some seem to have had somewhat similar motivations, plus some motivations I’ve had the good fortune not to have had. I assume their starting conditions, in most cases, must have been pretty dire compared to mine, or else they wouldn’t go through all that they do.

          I’m curious what the real break down of opinion is. I have my suspicions, but they’re only based on my own experience, and the few immigrants I’ve spoken to about this were pretty well off and tended to the left end of the U.S.’s political spectrum. And it seldom comes up in conversation. It’s generally only native born citizens who raise the topic. After all, what you state doesn’t even make any sense to someone who’s gone through visa or residency processes. How does someone not following the process change the various quotas and times on waiting lists for people in the process? The effect of the one is entirely orthogonal to the other, is it not?

          Happy Canada Day.

        2. Dee, Kind of hard to apply legally when your family is in fear of its life by not fleeing. Applying thru the asylum process is, in fact, a second way to apply legally. By crossing the border and asking for the chance to prove that asylum is justified.

        3. You sound so angry. People who are waiting for citizenship should get it, but people who come here as a result of desperate, life threatening situations also need help and love. People would not undertake these dangerous journeys if they were not in desperate situations, often made worse by our government.

  2. Thank you for keeping us informed of things that may not get “buzz” in the news.

  3. I appreciate your clearly stated explanation of this divisive and complex issue. It is often hard to think straight when government officials are ramping up fear about the “perils” of immigrants arriving in the US. The complexity arises in part from the fact that many immigrants are “illegal” meaning that according to our laws they are not supposed to be living among us. This despite the fact that most of them are working here and paying taxes, and in some cases serving in our military as well. By those same laws, their children born here are totally “legal” citizens, further complicating things. I hope you and others will continue to inform us of the twists and turns of this important issue, and also the related question of finding a way to provide a path to citizenship. Let us not forget the inviting phrase “Give us your tired, your poor,….”

    1. John, illegals get an unfair advantage.
      They cross the border into the US and are let loose.
      Legal immigrants, however. wait for years and often are turned down.
      Did you ever stop to consider this?
      Apparently not.
      So you care a lot about the illegals but not for the legal applicants.
      Will loves you.

      1. Not those with cash. If one puts down a 450k investment, he/she goes to the front of the line. Russian oligarchs who literally come here legally to extend their criminal territory. Naturalized American citizens are now responsible for most of the drug rings and sex trafficking. It is not the Mafia or Irish Mob. Then there are those trying to hide their funds in US. They purchase residential and commercial real estate here which increase the prices astronomically, which is not good for anyone. Ask a restauranteur if he/she can afford the rent in most cities now. Several major cities have conducted large operations against these kinds of activities, which we the taxpayers are on the hook for. And then there is the fact the majority of non-citizens do not come from Mexico. Most are Europeans who overstay a visa. Ask anyone who has conducted a study on non-citizens. In Massachusetts, ask someone with a brogue if he/she knows someone staying here illegally. Supposedly if you are detained as an “illegal” in Vermont, you get ice cream in your jail cell. See the problem with TV/the web is that it makes one look at the small distraction rather than at the situation head on. If one goes out and asks individual about their experiences, then one starts to get a very different picture.

  4. I think the citizenship question should be on the census. I have read reports of 11 million folk being undocumented. Where do those numbers come from? We need actual facts. Congress needs to act to provide do their job and either provide a path to citizenship or a path to return to their home country. We have a political crisis created by politicians. Both parties should be ashamed!

    1. There are a lot of administrative data points that demographers feel offer better indicators of the immigrant population that questions that immigrants will not answer. If the purpose is facts, there are better ways to get them. I encourage you to browse the Supreme Court justices’ several opinions in the case (linked to above).

      But I agree that we have a mess that we all be deeply ashamed of!

      1. Remember Mr. Senator we know the difference between an immigrant and an illegal alien even if the press, the elitists, and the democratic party doesn’t. Keeping the waters continuously muddied prevents any real dialog and any real solutions. And no, I have nothing to be ‘deeply ashamed’ of but the elitists who want cheap uncomplaining labor, the press who have their own agenda, and the democratic party with their continuous war on working citizens certainly do.

        1. Actually most in the GOP want the “cheap, uncomplaining labor.” The are on the other side of Trump on this. Even GWB wanted a path to citizenship for the 11 million.

          1. Exactly. Does Barbara have any idea who is allowed into this country to work for low wages at Mira Lago?

      2. I cannot argue with the logic and our laws that you used to make your argument. However, if you use our laws to support an argument then you must also follow laws to make an argument on how to treat illegals in the US including the deportation of those who never reported to court to validate their reasons s for staying here. But as a progressive you will not support our law officials finding them and deporting them if necessary. Why do you only use the laws that fit your agenda?

    2. William, I agree.
      The larger question is illegal immigration.
      We have laws for a reason.
      Will chooses to ignore that because he thinks that he’s a
      great humanitarian and that the US belongs to all living beings on planet Earth. How wonderful of him.
      Once we realize how Will thinks, we know why he believes in certain policies.
      There is also the electoral angle: illegal Latino immigrants, once legalized, will vote for Democrats and create a permanent Democratic majority.

      1. The former KS Secretary of State, Kris Kobach, extensively studied voter fraud, and found that it occurs at a very low rate; less than two percent if I remember the article correctly. And those who commit fraud are older wealthy American citizens who forget where they are registered, and will often register at the location of their second/vacation home. Kobach is part of the GOP and a strong Trump supporter.

      2. There is already a Democratic majority and has been for years. It’s just not translated to the Electoral College which “elects” the President.

      3. Will is discussing including a citizen question not debating the entire immigration question. But I’ll add my opinion anyway. The US does belong to the whole world because, with the exception of Native Americans, this Nation was built by contributions from people who came here from all parts of the globe. As for all of the “illegals” “threatening” our way of life or standard of living, I defy anyone, with even half a heart, to hear testimony from someone who has worked at the Southern border, to not be deeply moved upon hearing how shamefully people are being treated. What would you do if your life was threatened, or you saw your children starving? The solution to Southern border problems lies in finding better ways to help southern border countries. We are proud and appreciative citizens of this Country, but we are also Citizens of the world.

    3. You have hit the nail on the head EXACTLY. Politicians, both parties, have caused this crisis.
      The pathway to citizenship begins by sending them to their HOME COUNTRIES where they get in line like all the legal immigrants who are living here LEGALLY did.
      Why is it so difficult to understand the difference? It couldn’t possibly be votes, now, could it?

      1. The difficulty is that many of the undocumented immigrants would be killed or at risk of being seriously harmed or killed if we sent them back. That would be inhumane. Gordon, Dee, are you native Americans? If not, then your families came here as immigrants. You are fortunate to be here, and should be grateful and not slamming the door on others who seek the same opportunity your ancestors had.

        1. And the US created the conditions that have destablized the governments in Central America. Sometimes it is best to leave a terrible government in place instead of replacing it with nothing.

        2. Andrew, and you’re lucky to live in your house. Others are not so fortunate. You should be opening your door to anyone who would like to live in a house like yours. It would be very selfish otherwise, right?

  5. I echo the thanks mentioned above. I appreciate hearing your
    thoughts on many diverse issues as well as your liberal point of
    view. I am delighted that we have such an activist Senator.

  6. There are consequences for being in the country illegally. You cannot have it both ways. Be represented but not be counted.
    I find it disheartening you feel this is a a plus for one party. Do you represent all the folks in the district or only the Democrats? How about offering a solution rather the same old tired trump blame game.

  7. It would be nice to know how many citizens live in each district. Why are people afraid of having this question on the census?

    1. Dear John,
      Will just lacks common sense.
      It’s all rather sad.
      Please see my other comment.

      1. Dee?

        I would suggest we respect each other’s opinion first and hold off from attacking other’s political view.

        Illegal immigrants is a complicated problem here. It is about fairness, legal status but there is also a huge humanitarian issue involved. Let’s discuss them with passionate reasoning but not attacking others as “ lack of common sense”


    2. I could be wrong but I believe that citizenship status has never been asked on any previous census. The census bureau is concerned that asking non-citizens to identify themselves will result in a lower response rate due to fears of being deported.

      1. Actually, they did ask it in some earlier censuses. The differences today are: (1) the climate of fear which means the question would not be answered accurately if answered at all; (2) the availability of other ways to get the statistics from administrative systems.

        1. What other administration systems can be used to obtain this data? And, why are the politicians pushing to obtain it?

          1. The IRS and the Social Security Adminisetration have these records for 90% of the population and the Census Bureau believes that it could use those records to accurately estimate the other 10%. Please see the opinion of Justice Breyer at pages 13-14. Note that this pdf contains several different opinions and they restart page numbering for each. The pages to review on this issue should have the heading “Opinion of BREYER, J.”

    3. How can I help.
      Being a citizen, does not make one more of a person. The
      law is to count all persons.

      1. The bot-got-round seeing these people being responded to by bots is somewhat funny, the seriousness of this issue is not. Thank you Will.

    4. We can know how many citizens live in each district from other information. In fact, we do know it. However, asking the question frightens many non-citizens into refusing to answer the census questions. This skews the data. Coincidentally, it skews the data in favor of white, non Hispanic Republicans, and this is why the Republicans want to ask the question, not because we need the information.

      1. Surveys have shown that a majority of “Hispanics” (an imprecise term, but going with it for the moment) are in favor of the citizenship question. I doubt that the survey sample was limited to citizens, but that is a possibility. In any case, “Hispanics” are usually those who identify as such.

  8. Massachusetts municipalities (probably all of them, but certainly Boston, Belmont, and others) ask residents whether they are citizens or not. But Will does not like it on the Federal level. Go figure.

    The US always had a citizenship question on its census up to 1951.
    After that the question has been in random census forms.

    The census determines proportional representation Congress.
    Illegal aliens should not get representation in Congress. If a place has more illegal aliens than other places, they get more representation. That is not proper.

    You know, Will, I really hate to say this, but there is something very, very wrong with you. Maybe you just lack common sense. Or a sense of being an American.

    You seem to think illegal immigrants should have all the rights of citizens. Which rights do you think they should NOT have? Name some, Will.
    Have you ever wondered, Will, with the lack of affordable housing, where illegal aliens will live in Belmont, which is a “sanctuary city” of sorts? Tell us.

    Should illegal alien seniors be placed in the same priority as citizen seniors for senior housing?

    Will, do you mind if I speak my mind? You’re a screwball. That’s putting it mildly. Get help, for your own sake and ours.

    1. I guess that makes me a screwball also? In many parts of the US especially in the south close to Mexico farmers and other industries depend on seasonal illegal immigrants to do hard manual labor like harvesting crops in the hot summer sun for very low wages. These are jobs that no citizen or legal resident would perform. It gives them hard currency to take back to Mexico or Central America and keeps our grocery prices low.

      1. Tony, those farm workers are let in legally to work.

        This has nothing to do with the subject at hand.

    2. Illegal aliens should NOT get representation,
      ONLY USA citizens, and not the ones who illegally came over the border, AMERICA FIRST

      1. You cannot get representation without voting. You cannot vote if you are not a citizens legally residing in the place where the poll is.

    3. The census requirement is in the Constitution. It counts people, not citizens. Town census is a different thing for a different purpose. Housing requirements are also a different thing.

      Will has things totally right. You don’t.

      1. Ruth, let us all hear your views on illegal immigration and whether it is proper and fair that illegals can cross the border illegally and leap ahead of those who follow the law and often wait for years to get in.
        If you think that’s unfair, let’s hear how you would remedy that.

      2. Thanks for pointing out the nuance between people and citizen. Again, as a pragmatist I want everyone counted regardless of status. How can we conducts any sort of planning if we do not have the data? The census counts children, maybe even pets (or is that at the local level?). Why? For planning purposes.What if fire departments had no idea how many people lived in their areas? Wouldn’t we want them properly staffed not only for our safety but theirs as well? One can get a citizen count through other means which don’t artificially suppress population counts.

        1. In reality, no one is doing any planning anyway. Let’s stop kidding ourselves. In the US, profit-making always wins over planning.

          I am on the side of those who do not want illegal immigrants to be represented in Congress (it’s a ridiculous concept), and if the Census results in them being undercounted, so be it. Counting them creates a perverse incentive for the state to keep accommodating more and more of them in our cities and town, because the higher the population as a whole, the more federal funds the state can claim. That’s how we ended up with the housing crisis, paralyzing congestion, continuously underperforming urban schools, public healthcare costs weighing the state down, and so on. Like in Californian, too much growth too fast – abetted by excessive immigration.

          I would rather that we get federal funding based on citizen numbers alone. I want the state to stop being effectively an accomplice in disregarding our immigration laws just for profit. We should learn to live within our means, and stop incurring social spending and infrastructure liabilities that keep growing and will crush us unless we stop embracing excessive immigration. Too many local and state politicians bend over backwards to please the immigration lobby. Enough.

          1. There is no way that states would encourage more non-citizens “just for a profit.” It doesn’t work that way: The federal government does not come close to covering the costs of serving people in need.

            1. Low-skill immigrants always cost states money – it’s a no-brainer. (But not all immigrants are low-skill. Many are well-educated, though their participation in the labor market also puts downward pressure wages.) Low-skill immigrants are liabilities for the states for sure – but the funds that the states have to spend on them benefit multiple interests. The states are usually in the grip of business and other interest groups (incl. construction industry, colleges, all kinds of do-good organizations, etc.) that benefit when population constantly increases via endless immigration. If people weren’t making money from immigrants, we would not have such a high level of immigration. Too high at this point.

    4. Entirely agree with Dee. Finally someone with common sense in our “Comunewealth”.

      Well put. Thanks.


      1. But no concern for the commonwealth, ie the general good. Skewed population numbers serve no one.

  9. I’m a card-carrying knee-jerk liberal, but I have to agree with Dee on the subject of voting rights.
    And while I’m at it, should there not be a question on the census whether the eligible voter speaks English? How can we maintain an-always-fragile democracy if the voters cannot communicate with each other, let alone understand what candidates stand for so the voter can decide how s/he feels about the candidate?

  10. Thank you Will. There is unfortunately an underlying and justified widespread mistrust of Government (which you acknowledge in this context) and of the way in which the current Administration and several State Governments are trying to implement policies and encourage viewpoints that are directly aimed at harming individuals and groups that they dislike, not necessarily on a reasonable basis but because they perceive this approach as an important means to cement and increase the fervor of their supporters by convincing them that their travails and troubles are due to immigrants with evil intent. Sophisticated and effective gerrymandering, now even if not approved by the Supreme Court nevertheless accepted by this Court as allowable, is another distressing example. Democrats are far from innocent in this respect (e.g. Maryland) but the subversion of decency and democratic values by Republicans in positions of power has risen (or fallen in a moral perspective) to an entirely different level of cynical self serving manipulation. The issue is not only one that involves illegal immigrants. Legal non-citizen residents may be reluctant to answer a question about citizenship if they believe (with reason) that the consequence of being honest may lead to investigation of their situation and possible harassment.

    The question as to whether non-citizens – legal or illegal – should or do have the same rights as citizens is complicated and revealing when examined. I do not interpret Will’s comments on the census question as implying that illegal immigrants should have the same rights as citizens or legal immigrants, or what rights they should have and what should be their obligations. Immigrants (legal or not) do not have the right to vote, nor do they have the obligation to serve on juries. When there was the draft (which I believe you still have to register for when you reach 18) male legal immigrants were required to register and serve if called. If you are a non-citizen there are also differences with citizens in how you can pass on your assets to your heirs. Citizens who live in DC (which has a population greater than that of Wyoming) do not have representatives in Congress who can vote, nor do residents of Puerto Rico who are US citizens. So the picture of the rights and obligations of citizens and immigrants is both complex and presents several anomalies or inconsistencies. Ultimately one may hope there will at some point be a coherent and sensible immigration policy in the US, and that with such a policy and other currently improbably developments trust in Government by citizens and non-citizens within the US will increase. But for now, especially given the evidence of the actual intent of this Administration behind the reintroduction of the citizenship question into the Census, and its remarkable and distressingly consistent record of lying, including claims that there have been huge numbers of illegal voters in recent elections, it is in my opinion the right decision to exclude this question from the 2020 Census.

    1. Thank you, Martin. Well said.

      You read me correctly: I am not saying that the rights of non-citizens should be the same as those of citizens. Citizenship means something, at a minimum the right to vote in national elections. But I do think that economic benefits (schools, health care, etc.) should be available without regard to documentation status — if the federal government has let a person into the country, we have to take care of them.

      I acknowledge that housing is a tough one because it is in undersupply, and it doesn’t feel right for local seniors to be unable to get in while new arrivals are in: But the list order is driven by need criteria and sometimes immigrants have greater needs.

      1. Martyn and Will delve into the nuances that arise, and I agree with them.

        Upon reflection, I shot from the hip when agreeing without qualifications to Dee’s initial post.

        Viewed from another slant, while I agree that it is very important that all residents of the home country be counted, limiting voting to citizens (which I entirely agree with) makes these voters responsible for the welfare of ALL residents of our country. This puts our voter collective into a position where priorities of actions and laws and ordinances come into consideration, but this time with the responsibility to apply different screens: humanitarian screens and selfish ones (where education and health are concerned), thereby requiring very careful prioritizing … which our collective groups (whether legislators or private or non-profit) are not very good at.

        Still, there are thoughtful activists like Will and Martyn, which provides reason for optimism.

      2. Senator – You politicians have let illegals into the country and you should be the ones to house, feed, cloth and medicate them…not we the tax payers. You might also teach them ENGLISH while you are at it.
        Hospitals must provide interpretive services and that cost goes into insurance rates because someone has to pay.
        Note the following article with a list of 150 languages available. I’ll cut it off after the first 24 or so languages. One wonders at times, just which country we are living in?
        Our technical translation agency provides technical translation services in over 150 languages: Afrikaans, Albanian, Amharic, Arabic, Armenian, Assamese, Azeri, Baluchi, Basque, Bengali, Bhojpuri, Byelorussian, Bosnian, Breton, Bulgarian, Burmese, Catalan, Cebuano, Chechen, Chinese (Mandarin, Cantonese, Simplified, Traditional), Croatian, Czech,…..etc., etc., etc.,

        1. Immigration decisions are made at the federal level. At the state level, we take care of whoever has been admitted and there really is no practical or moral alternative to doing so.

  11. Will, You are correct in that trust is the issue. Under current law only aggregate census data is available in the short run. As any genealogist will tell you, individual census forms are kept sealed for 72 years. We won’t even be able to see the 1950 census details until 2022. This fact may ease the concerns of some in answering the question on citizenship (if one is ultimately included) but only if they trust that our government will obey the law.

  12. First I do not think we need to stoop to name calling to disagree. People can and should have difference of opinions and that makes for good debate and compromise.

    But my question here would be. As you state Senator not counting them, because they would be afraid to respond due to the question, would give an unfair advantage to the Republican Party so taking that one step further would counting them, because the question is left off and they won’t be afraid to respond, give an unfair advantage to the Democratic Party? Just wondering I really don’t know the answer to that.

    1. Under the constitution, the Census is supposed to count all persons. Asking questions that frighten people will lead us to getting the count wrong. For me, following the constitution is enough of a reason to want to want to get the count right. I don’t think I would have a different view if the immigrant population were tilted Republican.

  13. Probably others have explained this, but if not, the reason why Democrats and liberals oppose putting the citizenship question on the 2020 census is because thousands of Latinos would be afraid to indicate their status for fear of being deported by Trump’s ICE. Evidence recently was reported by a woman that her late father, a Republican operative, told Wilbur Ross and others who run the census that it would reduce the number of Latinos who would respond to the census.

    One of the purposes of the census is to determine how many live in a political unit such as a state, so the appropriate amount of public funds can be distributed to that unit for schools, hospitals, EPA clean-up efforts, etc.

    Wilbur Ross denied this, saying that the effort had to do with monitoring civil rights legislation. The revelation by the Republican operative’s daughter proves that Ross lied.

    1. The census can determine representation in Congress.
      Do you understand?
      Illegals should not have representation.
      Stop avoiding that issue.

      1. Dee, I have never heard anyone reply to the question that the more illegal immigrants an area has the more representation it receives. They know it but always seem to avoid it.

      2. So let’s look hard at that issue – that “illegals” should not have representation. Not providing representation and federal funding for the number of *people* residing in a state, regardless of their status, means that there can be problems affecting all of the residents, whether citizens, non-citizen legal residents, or undocumented immigrants. Think of issues like public health, roadways, public transportation, sanitation, housing. These need to be funded based on the number of *people* living in a state, not based on the citizenship status they hold. Otherwise, citizens and non-citizens alike suffer the consequences. Also, the Constitution calls for the census to count the population. It is deeply troubling to watch so-called Americans cast aside our hard-won Constitutional order from what appears to be a slavish devotion to Trump, a man who cares only for his own self-aggrandizement and doesn’t truly see, let alone hold the entire country’s interests at heart.

  14. Trust is challenged today, but by government, but by door to door energy salesmen asking to see our bills, the countless providers and creditors asking for information, and then leaking it to hackers.

    The census is to collect important demographic info and we lack that for illegal immigrants, with estimates from 10 to 24 million and growing.

    1. Why not outsource the census to Google, Facebook, and Amazon? They already know far more about us all than the Fed. They are who we should fear, not government.

  15. Illegal aliens should not be counted in a census. They are illegals and did not come through the proper channels to be in the USA. They shouldn’t get representation in our government. Become legal first. We are over run with illegals now sapping our health system, using our welfare system etc We are going bankrupt for gods sake. When is enough enough? I’m sick of it and I’ve helped hundreds to get USA benefits welfare, food stamps, child care services for free.
    USA citizens come first

    1. Being counted in the census is different from being able to vote. Lots of people who cannot vote are counted in the census — children and prisoners. The Constitution just says count the persons who reside here. It doesn’t say count the ones who can vote.

      1. The census is a side issue of what is really happening.
        You would be fine if, tomorrow, Congress decided to give every adult illegal who has been here some arbitrary minimum amount of time the right to vote.
        After all, thinks Will, illegals care about this country too, otherwise they would not be here, right?
        Hence, give them the right to participate by voting. Blah blah blah.

      2. I have to wonder if the folks who wrote the constitution included the statement “count the persons who reside there” because everyone was a citizen at that time and today that is no longer true?

        1. When the constitution was written you had The Articles of Confederation serving roughly as your constitution does now, but it was a looser federation of independent states as I understand it. Article IV is interesting. Its language is both more inclusive and less, if I’m not putting the wrong emphasis on word choice: ” the free inhabitants of each of these States, paupers, vagabonds, and fugitives from justice excepted, shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of free citizens in the several States; and the people of each State shall have free ingress and regress to and from any other State”
          I’m not seeing other instances of the word citizen, so I guess you’d have to refer to the constitutions of the individual states. I thought I’d try Pennsylvania’s, being curious about Thomas Paine’s immigration status. It has this clause:
          “SECT. 42. Every foreigner of good character who comes to settle in this state, having first taken an oath or affirmation of allegiance to the same, may purchase, or by other just means acquire, hold, and transfer land or other real estate; and after one year’s residence, shall be deemed a free denizen thereof, and entitled to all the rights of a natural born subject of this state, except that he shall not be capable of being elected a representative until after two years residence. ”
          So maybe Thomas Paine got out to the other side of this very burdensome immigration process before he went and wrote that nasty-gram to George Washington or went off to laud the French Revolution, which to some citizens of the day might have put the goodness of his character into question.

    2. Marcia, Will is a super-liberal and doesn’t care one whit what you or I think. He knows he will be elected every two years regardless.
      Consider that people who apply for legal admittance to the US are often denied, and others must wait in line for many years. Some people can’t even get a simple visa to visit.
      Yet, Will is OK with the fact that a person can cross the border illegally and jump ahead of all those people who follow the rules.
      This is outrageous. Does it bother Will? Will says, “Oh yes, it does bother me.” As if that’s an answer.
      I really do hate to say this, but Will is into things that completely defy the law, fairness, and common sense.
      He doesn’t really answer questions directly either, like a typical politician. If he did that, he’d expose his real thoughts.
      In Will’s mind, anyone who makes it into the US (except perhaps for an outright serial killer or rapist, but who knows?) illegally is entirely welcome to stay. That’s how he thinks. Will, in his heart, thinks that such a person should get all the rights of a citizen. Hey, why not? After all, the illegal immigrant is a human isn’t he/she?
      Gone is any sense of being American. See, Marcia, there are books out there now that argue that any human should be able to live anywhere he wants – any country. That’s the end result of Will’s thinking. Again, Will will answer “No” as if that’s answer.
      Let’s call this what it is: Evil.

      1. Being an American is a cultural experience. Take any kid who grew up regardless of place of birth, they will likely be open to innovation, constantly ask why, “know their rights”, have a disdain for advice, love pizza, ice cream and burgers, have little financial knowledge, enjoy going to concerts where the music is loud, live in jeans and sneakers and speak maybe one language outside of English. This is how it has always been. America is not going away. Some say it was jeans and CDs that brought down the Berlin Wall. Don’t fret.

  16. I’m a Dem who has worked on every presidential campaign since ’76. In 2018, I worked on the successful campaign to remove the last Republican House member… but on immigration, I think my party is handling the issue all wrong.
    1) The town census in my very lefty town, Lexington, asks every resident’s NATIONALITY. Asking immigration status is not a new idea.
    2) We Dems gave Trump the immigration issue and thus the White House. We are doing it again. We have been showing Americans that we care more about immigrants, legal and illegal than about our own working class. Last time I checked, illegal immigrants don’t vote. If we could agree not to talk about immigration for 18 months, we’d win the election.

    1. You are right, and I think that it is great issue for the democrats to fall on their swords with.

    2. Steve, you wrote: “In 2018, I worked on the successful campaign to remove the last Republican House member…”
      Just curious, why is that an accomplishment? You guys could not live with one republican? There needs to be some check on power, and by eliminating all republicans you create a one-party rule – hardly a thing that we should aspire to. As you can see, democrats have lost their mind on immigration. Who is going to stand up to them?

      1. It is the same in many states. Utah, Mississippi and others are ruled by one-party. Yet, people who use this argument about MA never complain about those states.

        1. Why should I complain about Utah or Mississippi? I don’t live there – I live in Massachusetts. I don’t want a one-party rule here. If other states are screwed up it doesn’t mean ours should be too.

  17. Persons who are not citizens cannot vote in our elections, but surely they can have representation. Thankfully, the children who being held in cages on the southern border have some representation by people like Senators Warren, Sanders and others.

    1. Maybe we should let some of them into Belmont, Michael.
      Your house have any spare bedrooms?
      They’ll even sleep on the living room floor.
      Let’s hear from you.

      1. You are a nativist and a racist, Dee. Will is tolerant your outrageous remarks, but I am not. I am not surprised to see that you leave off your last name on these foul comments.

        1. Because someone is against illegal immigration does not mean they are racist. I have not heard a racist remark in any of the comments I have read here.

          1. Most U.S. citizens are not in favor of immigrants who come to this country without the proper papers. But Dee is against people who try to come here because they are refugees, fleeing from violence, starvation, or lack of water. That makes her a nativist and a racist.

            It is interesting that you don’t reveal your surname either. Are you ashamed of your views?

          2. I don’t see many who are against illegal aliens bat an eye when they hear a brogue or an Eastern European accent. However, I have seen disgust on faces when the accent is Spanish. It is not just your words that people are observing. It is also the physical shift away or the assumption that someone doesn’t speak English that also registers.

        2. And so Michael descends into an hominem attack, name calling. You can always tell when a “progresssive” is hopping mad. “Racist” pops out, whether relevant or not. Next up will be “fascist” and “white nationalist”. Others have asked on this thread to keep it civil, and I second that suggestion.

      2. Maybe we should not invade countries and muck things up. Remember our activities in the 70s/80s in the Middle East and in Latin America? The chickens have come home to roost, haven’t they?

  18. Thank you Will. Your facts will help debunk myths. The U.S Constitution requires a census of all persons residing in the U.S. States need their share of federal funds (apportioned by the census) to educate and care for persons living in the state. These individuals in Massachusetts contribute to our economy in many ways but above all are our fellow human beings. Many of them have children who are citizens of the U.S. Many others under DACA have known the U.S. as their only mother country. Thank you for clearly stating the facts.

  19. Thanks, Will, for your thoughtful and accurate assessment. We should know how many people live in this country and efforts to depress the count are shameful. I’m afraid much damage has been done despite the (temporary?) reprieve but the Supreme Court.

  20. Noncitizens’ rights should differ from citizens’ rights, according to the Constitution, in only three ways. Noncitizens should not be permitted to vote in federal elections; “natural born” citizens should be permitted to run for President; and the US is not under an obligation to spare the lives of soldiers of foreign powers with whom we are in a Constitutionally declared state of war.

    That’s it.

    There are ways the courts have limited the rights of noncitizens in ways that violate the Constitution’s spirit. For example, they have allowed procedurally abusive immigration courts, CBP interrogations and Guantanamo tribunals, and have permitted unreasonable and warrantless searches and seizures of foreign nationals and their communications. We, and the Constitution, would be better off if the courts had been less deferential to executive power in these areas.

    If you look, the Bill of Rights refers only to “persons” and “the people”, not to citizens and noncitizens. If the government seeks to limit your freedom of speech or religion, your right to bear arms, or your right to a speedy and fair jury trial, among others, it should be entirely indifferent to your citizenship status. Part of what we should stand for as a nation is that we will treat you fairly and justly, no matter where you’re from, what you believe, or what you look like.

  21. Thank you for addressing this important 2020 Census matter regarding citizenship status. While I appreciate your willingness to experiment with comment forums on issues as fraught as this one, I recommend offering a moderated (refereed!) public meeting instead, to encourage discussion and a civil, respectful exchange of views.

    1. I don’t mind if people criticize me strongly here. And uncivil is permissible, as long as it doesn’t verge into the obscene.

      But I agree that there is real value in face to face exchange — one can cut through some of the misundertandings more easily. I’ll probably do some discussions in the fall when people are around.

      1. I second the proposal for a town hall or other face-to-face forum in which to (civilly) discuss these issues further. Would you post meeting times and information on your website?

      2. You mean the students? Permanent residents like myself are here year round.

        1. As a permanent resident and capitalist pig, I welcome the students. They/their families contribute millions, if not billions to our state economy. Some even stay and contribute to brainpower. We are very fortunate to have these conditions.

  22. This is a letter in today’s (July 1) Financial Times (US edition). It is another example of the confusion and/or misrepresentation being propagated about the situation of immigrants in the US, both legal and illegal. The US has a long history of establishing rules and procedures that are designed to keep those in power at the time – or increase their power – in self serving ways that over time have come to be seen as unacceptable, beginning with the 3/5 of a human number assigned to slaves (who had no rights) for the purpose of the original Census and the notorious procedures followed for voter registration to make it almost impossible for African American citizens to register to vote (the Democrats when they ran Southern states after Reconstruction). I think we can all or almost all agree that US immigration policy (if that term can even be applied legitimately to what is going on today) is a mess in urgent need of fundamental reformation, although we disagree about how this should be done. One comment I will add in this perspective is that US intervention and actions in several of the countries in Central America that are significant sources of the current flow of would be immigrants towards the US, while not the only cause, have greatly exacerbated and enabled the ghastly life threatening conditions of individuals and families there which drive many of them to flee north in fear of their lives. We need to rethink our foreign policies and the actions we pursue abroad as part of any serious initiatives to reform immigration policy.
    The next US census is becoming a partisan issue

    As a US citizen, the fact that the FT editorial board (June 24), or anyone else would have “wider disillusionment with US politics” is of no concern of mine. While you blame the Republicans, you miss several points.

    First, you miss that “sanctuary” cities and states would benefit for attracting illegal aliens to be counted for the benefits you list. Second, you don’t understand the structure of our republic and that trying to legislate a “workaround” is a purely political effort to undermine our constitution by the “progressive Democrats” while they and you are accusing President Trump of the same. Third, you are ignorant of the scheme by the New York legislators and governor to give illegal aliens drivers’ licenses which automatically registers them to vote.

    Sadly you missed the insight that our whole immigration and now census issues are an effort by the left (Democrat party) in America to create a new constituency beholden to them.

    James H Somers

    New York, NY, US

    1. Please keep in mind that the FT is a left leaning media source so whatever they print needs to be taken with a grain of salt.

        1. Just a wee shout out here, Martyn’s comments are informative. His name is spelled with a ‘y’ not an ‘i’, just saying:)

          Also, one dumb question: What is a ‘whole’ person? Or, put another way, what’s an example of a person who is not ‘whole?’
          Thank you

          1. Thanks for the correction.

            The “whole person” concept goes back to the 14th Amendment which was part of correcting the outrage of slavery. In our original constitution, slaves were counted as 3/5 of a person, although they were not allowed to vote.

            Section 2.

            Representatives shall be apportioned among the several states according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each state, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the executive and judicial officers of a state, or the members of the legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such state, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such state.

      1. Did Regan sell or not sell weapons to Afghanistan? Did Regan try to be kingmaker in Central America? Yes or no? These are things that were done. And these actions had consequences. Migration is one of them.

        1. It was then, now is now. I do not think it is the fault of the United States that Central Americans can’t get their countries in order (they certainly have the numbers if they wanted to bring about change). But why should they make the effort, when it’s so much easier to just head north, cross the US border, and live here illegally. We only deserve blame for being incapable of guarding our border.

          1. So much easier? Give us a break. People don’t leave everything they know for an uncertain chance in a country where they might be apprehended and deported unless conditions are very bad. We can’t fix the whole world, but we can at least provide a sensible immigration policy and humane treatment for asylum seekers. Unemployment is low – the American economy could use these workers.

          2. This is not how history works. Actions have consequences, and consequences appear later. You are using the same logic when you argue that we have a history of giving asylum and therefore incentivize this behavior. And why are you only concerned with the Southern border? we hav four after all. Remember the folk who caused 9/11 came through Canada? Does your concern not include wealthy Saudi Arabians who do mean to do us actual harm?

  23. Thank you! And thanks, as always, for your good thinking and analysis. I appreciate that you are always asking for feedback, suggestions, ideas, thoughts.

  24. Thanks, again, Will for your updates. They are really appreciated, as well as all of the work you do every day representing us!

  25. Thanks for the more detailed info. As a non-citizen, I have to admit to being intermittent in my attention to civic matters. Often I’ll think, “I’ll pay more attention to that or be more active after I become a citizen.” But I’ll be sure to look out for the census and answer mine.

    If I’m understanding correctly there are obvious partisan reasons to want or not want this question on the ballot, but that the law as written says that what is meant to be counted is population not citizenship numbers. It seems on the face obvious that a citizenship question will reduce response rates from the undocumented. It strikes me as almost unnecessary to have expert info on the projected effect (though of course expert info is always to be preferred). Noting my own on and off again interest, as someone who’s even intending to try for citizenship, and fairly soon, it should be clear that the last thing you need if you want full participation from the general immigrant population is a question like this. Even without it I bet the response rate is lower than you might wish for, simply from apathy.

  26. Yes I think Trump and Republicans in DC are trying their best to make everything political. They have no shame. It was certainly a way to discount as many minority votes as possible. Hopefully a basic census will take place minus all the nonsense. And redistricting really ought to be the job of a non political commission, not the job of either political party no matter how honest an attempt is made at non-partisan. MA. should move with the hand full of states that have indeed gone the way of a non partisan commission to redraw districts fairly for voters in each state.

    1. Divide and conquer has always been the way of those who cannot lead.

  27. Thanks Will for the thoughtful and clear summary of this issue. As you stated, the Trump Administration’s stated reason for planning to include a citizenship question does not “hold water”, and is clearly only a mask to hide their political agenda, which is to change the balance of representation in Congress to favor Republicans. Please continue to provide updates as this process continues to move forward.

  28. Will thank you for all your updates.
    At this point I feel it is an honor to be tagged a liberal.
    I am too. US is a nation of immigrants.

  29. City of Boston census asks about citizenship and civilization has not ended here. One of the current purposes of the census is to determine which services may be need and non-citizens typically need different services than citizens. I don’t find any problem with including a citizenship question on the national or any other census. The elites are just using this innocuous question to keep the public in a fever pitch of emotionalism — which is an enemy of democracy at all times.

    1. FWIW, I see at as part of my mission to tamp down the emotion on issues — I agree the current elevated level of emotionalism is harmful. This piece was not intended to fan flames.

  30. Will, thank you for your clear and thoughtful response. I also think we have to count the “whole number of persons,” since these are the people, our neighbors, who live in our society. I’m curious about Mike’s comment (he apparently has gone through the legal process): “How does someone not following the process change the various quotas and times on waiting lists for people in the process? The effect of the one is entirely orthogonal to the other, is it not?” It is a criticism of unfairness one hears from critics, but Mike’s comment says there is no unfairness–the processes are parallel, not connected. Perhaps you could explain this more fully. Thanks for all you do, Barbara

    1. In truth, the fact that we devote a large amount of resources to handling people who are presenting themselves at our borders without previous application does mean that we have less resources to devote to those seeking to enter through the application process. The bureaucracy is overwhelmed and we are not providing it the necessary resources to handle either category.

      1. Maybe not, Will, but it does mean that we have less resources to devote to deserving citizens who are in need. Illegal aliens are not entitled to any social benefits beyond education and emergency medical care, but in fact many jurisdictions give them welfare benefits (EBT, subsidized housing etc.). The tab for this in MA alone is a billion dollars a year. Even Obama’s high profile Auntie Zeituni lived in subsidized housing, after she was ordered deported but did not leave, and she also had very expensive medical care. As to the overwhelmed bureaucracy at the border there is one simple solution that can be accomplished very quickly: secure the borders. Only political pressure from Democrats and Chamber of Commerce Republicans has kept us from doing what is so obviously necessary. Start with building a barrier, and tracking visa overstayers.

  31. Thank you Will for attempting to point out the actual law concerning this issue. From a practical issue, we need to know how many people are in districts because it is a public health issue as well as an infrastructure issue. Officials need to plan for population. For example, hospitals need to make sure they staffed appropriately and with enough medications. In the case of an epidemic, reasonable people would want everyone to be vaccinated, citizen and non-citizen, to stop the spread of a disease. By the way, the census also counts children, and the majority of those who are under 18 cannot vote. Using the logic of those who disagree with a full and accurate count, we should not count children. Skewing numbers does a disservice to everyone.

  32. Totally agree with Dee’s response ..June 30,2019. A few moments ago, illegals in DC are demanding in protest they be
    Counted! They broke our laws to enter our Country!
    Dee, “The Census can determine representation in Congress.
    Do you understand. Illegals should not have representation
    Stop avoiding that issue”.
    “Stop avoiding that issue”.

    “The Census

    1. You say: “Illegals should not have representation — stop avoiding that issue.”

      Not avoiding it. Facing it head on. Pasting statement from above in case you didn’t see it:

      What difference does it make if immigrants (documented or undocumented) count equally with citizens in legislative apportionment and redistricting? Whether counted or not, the non-citizens don’t vote and therefore are not going to get as much attention from their elected representatives. The real consequence is that the voting citizens get a disproportionate vote: In a congressional district that has, let’s say 400,000 non-voting immigrants and 400,000 voting citizens, then the voting citizens get twice as much influence as the citizens in a district that consists of 800,000 voting citizens – they get 1/400000 of the representative’s campaign attention instead of 1/800000. Whether that favors Republicans or Democrats in any particular case depends on how the district lines are drawn and what group of citizens is placed in the same district as the non-citizen population.

      Can we live with the possibility that any group of citizens might be overrepresented as a result of placement in a district with non-citizens? My answer is yes: To put the question in perspective, there are other common ways that a particular group of citizens can get outsized influence. For example, if citizens reside in a district that includes a large prison or is heavily populated by university students, who typically do not vote in state or local elections, then they will have an outsized vote. I would concede that over-representation of citizens (in districts with very high populations of non-citizens, prisoners or students) could go beyond reasonable levels, and I don’t dismiss the concern out-of-hand, but at this point, my view is that we should keep the rules simple and continue to redistrict based on the count of whole persons. And, of course, the census is used as a measure of economic and other needs as well as a measure of representation. The needs of the district are not reduced by the fact that some of the people counted in it are non-voting.

      1. Many of us here in MA, as well as in some other states, feel that our elected representatives are representing not us, but illegal aliens. They champion the “rights” of illegals at every turn, seem quite disinterested in the policies that would protect the interests of those who are here legally, whether naturalized or born here. I now close every letter to our Congressional representatives with a query as to why they are advocating on behalf of illegal aliens, not those whom they were elected to represent.

  33. Totally agree with Dee’s response ..June 30,2019. A few moments ago, illegals in DC are demanding in protest they be
    Counted! They broke our laws to enter our Country!
    “Common Sense”.. Illegals should not be representated in

    “The Census

  34. Will, you say “So, if the Supreme Court were to entertain the possibility of redistricting based on citizens only, instead of all persons, the change would advantage Republicans.”. Perhaps you should add that the result that you state is only relative to the position of redistricting based on all persons. Whether it creates an absolute advantage for Republicans is unknown.
    Also when the Constitution says “all persons”, do you think the signers of the document ever contemplated a sizable proportion of the population (or any proportion) would be illegally here?

    1. If redistricting was done in a grid like manner, then this question would be moot.

        1. Understood. Then is an independent panel the way to get out of gerrymandering?

  35. Addendum: Funds are always available to assist needy Americans
    & Illegals families.

  36. Thank you for an informative and helpful discussion of the issues. I concur completely (I did before reading it). Creating a climate of fear, as you write, whatever the outcome and whatever the motiviation, is not something we should entertain or condone in our society.

  37. Thank you for the information and your analysis. I appreciate your measured response to complex issues.

  38. Will, thanks for the careful thought on this issue.

    An angle that is seldom discussed is why the Constitution considers representation based on “persons” rather than “citizens” or “voters”. When the Constitution was drafted, only land-owning males could vote. Women and children would have not factored in to representation, which seems counter-intuitive and an undesirable outcome. Even today, children can’t vote, yet it would make little sense to apportion representation ignoring children.

    There is also a racial angle. At the time of the drafting of the Constitution, blacks could only vote in a couple states but were counted for representation in all the states (including at least the three-fifths compromise). And finally, the Dred Scott decision decades later denied citizenship, and therefore voting rights, to black people, including freed slaves (necessitating the 14th Amendment).

    Representation and census counts have never been based on citizens or franchised individuals, and the sole goal per one of the architects of the citizenship question is to undercount immigrants, both documented and undocumented.

    1. If undercounting illegal immigrants results in less federal funding to the state, perhaps Massachusetts movers and shakers will realize that catering to illegal immigrants is not such a good idea after all.

      1. Massachusetts already gets less. For every dollar we pay in federal taxes, states like West Virginia and Kentucky get a multiple of it back in funds. Rep King, a Republican from NY, tried to campaign against this in 2017. Our monies are going to fellow citizens. There are more poor caucasians on welfare than any other group. Persons without citizenship often get their resources from houses of worship, charities and private citizens. Drowning the government in a bathtub only hurts fellow citizens, and eventually catches up to those not at the poverty line.

  39. Thank you so much for this explanation and thank you for NOT supporting a citizenships question on the census.

  40. Thanks for your thoughtful analysis. I agree the citizenship question should not muddy up the census data collection.

    On another related topic, I know plenty of visiting scientists living in the US for years who do not become citizens and do think it would be good for them to able to vote in only local elections since their children go to the local schools and they live in our local communities. In Sweden, if you live in a community longer than 3 years you gain that voice. Thanks.

    1. The problem is that the right to vote by non-citizens would dilute the value of citizens’ vote (and it would not apply just to visiting scientists). In Boston, if non-citizens could vote, they would overwhelm the system with demands for more freebies, and the elected officials would pander to them even more than they already do.

      1. What devalues voting is citizens who do not votes. Last presidential election, 2/3 of persons who could vote did not. The current president got elected with 25% of eligible voters. This is a conclusion that the right, center and left statisticians have all come to. The only one get freebies is the current president and his family.

        1. You wrote: “What devalues voting is citizens who do not votes.”
          On the contrary, the fewer people vote, the greater the value of the votes of those who do. I’m a conservative voter – and my vote is being drowned in Suffolk County where I live. How would my vote have greater value by making more people who rely on social welfare vote?

  41. The goal of the census is to count all persons. Omitting the citizenship question will insure that the count of all persons is more accurate. Including a citizenship question will reflect an inaccurate population count. I am somewhat baffled how people can think that they can justify an inaccurate population count ie. rigging the system based on their own personal beliefs about immigration or their xenophobia or racism. Counting all persons means all persons, It doe not mean all citizens, or all those eligible to vote.

  42. Question: Let us say that Congress passes an infrastructure bill and it’s decided that all bridges built before 1940 will be replaced if they are located in a city with a population of 500,000 or more according to the census. And you live in a city with 400,000 citizens and 200,000 legal permanent residents or even some undocumented people and only 40,000 respond to the census. Are you ok if you don’t get a new bridge?

  43. All people who live in an area, citizens or not, voters or not, have an impact on what is needed to maintain the area. More cars means more road repairs, and more traffic concerns. More people means more people that get sick and need attention from hospitals. More residents means more need for housing, (and more income for landlords). Managing all these factors requires that all residents be counted, whether they are citizens or not. If some residents are not counted, then the region will suffer with under funding and scarcity of services for all.

    1. It is not natural or desirable for any country, city, town, region, to have so many non-citizens. If we need to count non-citizens to get money for infrastructure projects, powers that be will be doing everything in their power to attract more and more non-citizens – and then you need to spend more and more on infrastructure, housing, and social programs for them. It becomes a vicious circle. We should not create perverse incentives that lead to more and more non-citizens residing here. If the current trend continues, US citizens will be guests in their own country.

      1. So many? Estimates are around 3%. It’s a tiny percentage of the US population. Also, re natural, the US existed for much of its history without any constraints on who could come here. It wasn’t until the early 1900s that restrictions began to be imposed. All those immigrants built the US and made us a great power. They’d help our economy again if we were smart enough to see it. We could use more young workers as the baby boom generation retires. They would help keep programs like Social Security and Medicare solvent.

      2. What is so many? There were more non-citizens coming through in the 80s than there are now. At the height of the economic downturn, non-citizens crossings were dramatically down, and far fewer stay. Again, most welfare recipients are white. Not sure where this fear over resources is coming from. The scarcity myth is exactly that, a myth. If there are less public resources it is because there are less taxes. This is the vicious circle that you need to concern yourself with. If there is scarcity, it is because of certain citizens concentrating their powers to make public resources unavailable to the public.

    2. Counting for federal funding is an entirely different issue than counting for representation in the House of Representatives. If we include a citizenship question on the census, then we will have the data to count those here illegally for federal funding (as you wish), and to count citizens for representation in Congress (the original intent of the Census, before federal funding became such a big issue).

  44. Only American citizens should vote. Try going to another country and try to vote in their elections. What is wrong with American citizens who want their votes diluted by votes from people who are not American cirizens? Is there a rule of law or not?

    1. Have you ever been a poll watcher? It is very difficult to vote if you do not have certain information or proof. I know of people who are citizens who have been turned away from the polls simply because their names were spelled incorrectly or their address did not have the apartment number listed. It is called being a student in Boston. They got to file a provisional ballot but they are citizens who reside in Boston. So how is someone who does not speak English maneuver around poll workers when college educated citizens cannot??

  45. Let’s say you live in a state (not this one) in which Republicans control redistricting (most of them) and you live in an urban area with lots of non-citizens who can’t vote. The more of them that are counted, the smaller the area your congressional district will likely occupy because, statistically, its population (all persons) is denser. The GOP redistricters will be happy to confine you in a ghettoized district because it offers opportunity to partition the rest of your city in a way that includes suburbs that are more likely to vote Republican.

    No matter what the census says, they already know where the ethnic minorities are and take steps to keep them “contained” rather than letting those neighborhoods dilute GOP-leaning or on-the-fence voters, to keep their vote margins as high as possible.

    The citizenship question would give them another tool to maintain hegemony in a country where their constituency is shrinking, because it would make urban (and certain rural) districts even smaller. As Will and others have said, the data from that question would be skewed to under-count non-citizens and even some legal residents who feel besieged by white nationalism, and there are other ways for governments to obtain this information. It now looks like there won’t be such a question on the 2020 census, and that pleases me.

    1. Exactly! In Florida, it has been proving that there are more likely to cross off a Maria Teresa Lopez if it appears twice on the rolls than a Jessica Smith who appears twice on the rolls. Both names are quite common in their respective cultures, yet on gets more benefit of doubt.

  46. Will, you really have a great temperament. I just quickly skim through all the responses, and it is painful to read them. Let me share my perspective, as a legal alien (green card holder). I am all for an accurate count as it is required by the Constitution. If the citizenship question will depress the count, then the question should be gone, simple. The organization, where I am serving as a board member, is thinking about helping the outreach to workers on H1b and students on the visa. However, this effort also makes us unease, because these folks who we help get counted, is technically the black persons in states with 3/5 compromise. They have no voting rights (rightfully not allowed to vote), and they usually live in “progressive” districts. Their headcount gives power to people who may or may not represent their interets, and this concerns me. I watched the 2nd Dem primary debate last week, and as a liberal leaning person, I feel the current immigration policy is “dangerous”. I have no fear for the migrants who came to the border for a better life, but I am terrified by the unintended consequence of the “all are welcomed to come and stay” immigration policies–“open border” policy. I think these policies are practically resurrecting Nazi party from the right. Is the current Trump party scary? Yes. But I fear for worse. The U.S. is always more conservative than EU, and the EU is rapidly turning right after the refugee’s crisis. My husband is a white person, and I am Asian. We both are Christians, and we both believe we should welcome our neighbors. He embraces the open border policy, while I do not. Because his cost of being a “good person” is much lower than mine. If the Nazi-type party comes into power, they will target at Asians, I and persons look like me–politically powerless, perceived to be wealthy, and most importantly, we look different. When a well-intended law turns into a disaster, the minorities and poor always pay for the unintended consequences, and this is why my husband and I divided here. Then, let me go back to the issues of the headcount of foreign workers and international students (most of them are Asians). Will the politicians who represented them even know they exist? From my personal experience, the vast majority of the self-proclaimed progressives do not give a damn to them in real life. So, Will, you are a one in a kind politician. You will see I, again and again, to talk about unintended consequences in various issues, because I live with them all the time.

    1. You are precisely right that counting immigrants in redistricting does not give them power or representation. Your comparison to the treatment of slaves in the 3/5 compromise is harsh but accurate in the sense that counting immigrant inflates the power of some officials without providing representation to immigrants. Those complaining about “representation of illegals” fail to understand this. My conclusion above is that there are a number of ways that the basic “whole persons” rule can distort representation, but that adjustment would create endless confusion and litigation.

      1. Thank you, Will.
        I hope they just get the citizenship question settled, and we can all go ahead to get the accurate counting done. As long as it is still pending, folks are stuck here and arguing about the fate of the question.

  47. Senator Brownsberger

    I appreciate your explanation of a complicated political landscape and its strategic decision making. I support your position wholeheartedly.
    However, I suggest we add another very important perpective to this conversation which is that among those numbers who might be classified as non citizens today, there are also many among them who might presently be on the path towards citizenship and voting privileges/responsibilities . We must protect that pathway which is the cornerstone of our democracy.
    This census population we debate about today.. if we were to put a human face and smile on every number we cite.. we create a human portrait.. which changes constantly; it is fluid. When some become citizens, others join the long line and work towards their turn ; patiently … and most remain hopeful. All share the common goal to improve their lives and their childrens’. We must redefine these ‘non citizens’ as our infusion of America’s social capital . Families who are hoping to work permanently to keep our economy going. I call that patriotism at its finest.

    When discussing this policy , let us put a human face on these numbers. Tell their stories…
    They sound a lot like ours.

    Thank you for representing your constituency responsibly.


    Prof. Stephanie Reich
    Back Bay

  48. It seems like many people are lumping all non-documented persons into one category. There is a difference between someone who enters the country legally and then overstays their visa or who crosses the border for the purpose of immigrating versus someone who is seeking asylum because they are in fear of their lives or whose country has been made uninhabitable because of a natural disaster or war or civil war. They should be treated differently. The latter group are following the law in seeking asylum. It’s up to the US government to process those claims expeditiously and fairly and to allow in those whose claims are merited. There is nothing illegal about making an asylum claim. Let’s not paint every non-documented person with the same broad brush.

    1. Asylum laws were never meant to accommodate large cross-continental migrations. At some point, and soon I’m afraid, the people seeking asylum (most don’t qualify for it anyway, because they are just economic migrants) will exceed our ability to absorb them. Our economy is getting automated, and we don’t need masses upon masses of low-skill workers. Our safety net will collapse under their weight. Still, the good-hearted folks never think about the consequences to our country. Do we even have a country anymore – when the needs of foreign nationals are always held higher than those of our own citizens?

      1. Define large. A low skill worker can converted into a high skill one if he/she is willing to be educated. Most 20th century immigrants were low skill workers. Their children and grandchildren are creating companies, making discoveries in medicine and making great art. When we had the opportunity to bring in high skilled workers during the 2oth Century, we often failed to do so especially in the 30s and 40s because of their religious background. Luckily for the US, Oppenheimer and Einstein made it through. Our safety net is weighed down by mostly poor caucasian citizens and non-working elderly citizens ( the US is getting older, not younger). As for the automation revolution it is still 50 years out. Working alongside engineers, I often see the limitations that computers will have to overcome. The concern should be about company and government policies that do not address the future of automation because regardless of the number of non-citizens, that issues needs to be addressed.

  49. Thank you for explaining this so clearly. Thank you also for the article in the Tab that came today.

  50. Will, here’s an article that gets into the weeds, if correct it should get more attention. Its key point: “Never in the 230-year history of the census has the complete-count questionnaire (or its equivalent) asked for the citizenship status of everyone in the country.” Also, the census bureau in the 1970s and 80s resisted adding citizenship questions, with agreement from the courts, because it would substantially inhibit participation and the ability to obtain accurate counts.
    Thank you for launching this discussion.

  51. “The President’s daily rhetorical attacks on immigrants further elevate that mistrust. ”

    I mistrust Democrats in government like you who continue to lie and mis-characterize what our President says! He ONLY makes attacks on illegal immigrants and the many making fraudulent asylum claims to game the law.

    I understand why power-hungry Democrats don’t want the citizenship question. Places with the most illegal immigrants are Democratic districts or states and Democrats want more representatives in Congress. Skip the distractions and just admit this truth.

    You and other Democrats will say and do anything, including lying to oppose Trump, who is simply continuing Obama policies.

    1. Mark, I agree that his primary thrust is against those crossing without documentation, but he really is not very careful about drawing the distinction. Please see this collection of statements about Mexicans. Mexicans, with or without documentation are going to hear those comments with concern. That concern broadly translates into fear about government officials which will make it hard to collect data in Hispanic communities.

      And, more importantly, the proposed citizenship question does not draw the distinction. The question will shed no direct light on the size of the population without documentation.

      I would concede that both parties have political motivations in this conversation, but politics aside, I think the Democrats have the better side of the argument.

      1. The vast majority of Trump’s comments against Mexico concern the crime, violence, and government there, not the hard working people. The article is also very one-sided, without the compliments too.

        We are not getting the best and brightest. It’s a major failing of the US immigration system. The rest of the developed world uses a point system based on youth, education, and skills needed here. The Koch brothers, however love cheap, exploitable labor and thus fund phony studies like that trying to show illegal immigrants are less criminal than black and Hispanic Americans. If states dared collect immigration status we would have data for an accurate study, but Democrats prefer ignorance.

        I recently learned that in 1700’s Pennsylvania immigration status was required along with an oath of allegiance due to 1/3 of the state being populated with German immigrants. So, the precedent goes way back.

        Making laws based on hoped compliance is a poor plan, but consistent with ignoring immigration and right to work. No enforceable fines for bicyclist traffic violations hasn’t worked either and dilutes compliance with laws generally. We see that with pot laws, Sanctuary cities, other interference with federal law enforcement, open use of drugs on the street, growing street camping in socialist western Sanctuary cities, and more DA’s refusing to prosecute a growing list of crimes. Don’t be surprised that it lead to other states defying the fed when it comes to abortion laws. Oops.

        1. “Making laws based on hoped compliance is a poor plan”…like gun laws or DUI laws? Federalist or states rights? Aren’t we lucky to have both especially when one severely undermines the liberties of individuals as the Confederate did under states rights, and the Marriage Act tried to do under Federal law? Thank the founding fathers for setting up this way. To ensure a powerful cadre of gentlemen farmers, one has to provide for division in the other classes along several lines. Why would they want to engender trust? Divide and conquer has always been the way of those who cannot lead. When both parties agree that there should be immigration reform and they outnumber Trump’s coalition, why isn’t this getting done? Divide and conquer.

  52. I think you need to add extreme partisan gerrymandering under, “Why has the possibility of asking a citizenship question become a political issue”. In North Carolina which has about as many Democrats as Republicans, Republican state Rep. Dave Lewis said, “I propose that we draw the maps to give a partisan advantage to 10 Republicans and three Democrats, because I do not believe it’s possible to draw a map with 11 Republicans and two Democrats, …”. By drawing a Republican districts extending down a narrow portion of each road in a predominately Democratic region that expands to pick up not just Republicans on the street, but also non-citizens who are not eligible to vote, Lewis can get his 12 safe Republican districts.

  53. My post should have ended with, “…Lewis might be able to get his 12 safe Republican districts.”

  54. Will, you have mentioned several times that there are other ways to obtain the citizenship count. True. In fact there are other ways to obtain every other count on the census as well. That’s not the point. The point of the census is that it is the authoritative count of important demographic information, such as population, race, various economic parameters, etc. Since citizenship is undoubtedly an important issues in today’s public space we need an authoritative count of it. If indeed it makes some people reluctant to participate it seems the way to deal with that is through education and publicity, rather than simply ignoring the count. Unlike many other places where the books are cooked in self serving ways, one of the hallmarks of the American system, at least so far, is that we have reliable and nonpoliticized information on important social parameters, like employment, GDP, production, population, race and many others. We should not shrink from getting reliable data, however the chips may fall.

    1. But, Kiril, do you think that asking people an uncomfortable question is the best way to get a true answer? Administrative records are more reliable. The IRS and the Social Security Adminisetration have relevant records for 90% of the population and the Census Bureau believes that it could use those records to accurately estimate the other 10%. Please see the opinion of Justice Breyer at pages 13-14. Note that this pdf contains several different opinions and they restart page numbering for each. The pages to review on this issue should have the heading “Opinion of BREYER, J.”

  55. Thank you, Will, for your thoughtful and clear espousal of your thinking on this important question. It’s a great display of statecraft, deliberative democracy at its best.

    As concerned citizens, may we strengthen our ability to follow suit.

    As a Michigan-born direct descendant of four who served in the Continental Army, I’m deeply aware that their struggle was to uphold truths we hold to be self-evident: that all men are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights, among them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

    That’s the American covenant, which remains our responsibility.

    As one whose father, grandfather, and great-grandfather were elected officials as well as a businessman, lawyer, and doctor, I learned that public service means serving all the people, not just those who elected you.

    That’s democracy’s promise in a pluralist society, which remains our unfinished project.

    As one who did post-doctoral work at Harvard Divinity for several years on values in public life, I learned about the challenge of extrapolating one’s values, beliefs, and commitments to the public square, a matter of mastering the art of forging “second first principles” in ways that find common ground.

    That’s a cornerstone of democracy, which, as Thomas Jefferson said, relies on an educated citizenry.

    I’m deeply aware of the fragility of deliberative democracy, which relies on persuasion through reason, not emotive appeals to judgment while reason is out to lunch.

    In public discourse, direct attacks drive out the capacity for reason, critical reflection, and empathy. Personal insults inhibit understanding and finding pathways to agreement. In a pluralist society such as ours, our diversity is our strength—until it’s not, due to an unwillingness to listen, have respect for each other, or accept where we disagree without getting defensive or hurling insults.

    Deliberative democracy cannot occur in a climate of mistrust and fear. Nor can it thrive when reason is tossed aside in favor of personal attacks and alarmism.

    It thrives when head and heart are aligned, in service to larger truths held in common, even is positions and policies vary.

    Our Constitution is clear on apportionment, which is not the same as the franchise.

    Your reasoning on both of these, the census and citizenship, is clear, as well.

    Thank you for that, and for your continued public reflections on how you are thinking through the discharge of your role as a public fiduciary. We are the better for it.

  56. Will —-I completely agree with your analysis above.
    (I haven’t read the comments by others.)
    Citizenship should not be on the Census!!

  57. Have you considered that it is the citizens who pay taxes and work in the United States who should ONLY be counted towards how Federal monies are apportioned? If you are not a citizen paying taxes why should you be counted?

    1. What if you are a non-citizen paying taxes? That is actually the most common scenario. There are not a lot of undocumented people on welfare — they want to work and send money back.

      See this recent piece in the Wall Street Journal showing that the cash flow going back to Central America from people working in the U.S. dwarfs U.S. Government aid to Central America.

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