Counting Americans: Why do Democrats fear the citizenship question?

By Howard Husock:

The federal court ruling that bars questions about citizenship on the 2020 Census is, on the surface, a victory for Democrats. A group of 18 Democratic attorneys general initiated the suit to thwart the Trump administration’s plan to add such a question, and New York federal judge Jesse M. Furman ruled in their favor, though he did not find evidence that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross was acting out of political motives to suppress the residency count in immigrant-heavy states. Furman’s ruling instead focused on administrative-process issues.

On a deeper level, the decision (and the suit itself) is an implicit concession by Democrats of something obvious but important: that the states and congressional districts they represent include large numbers of noncitizens, whether legal residents or not. Census data tell the story: the foreign-born population exceeds 20 percent in more than 50 Democratic congressional districts; the comparable figure for Republican districts is 11. In the district of celebrity congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, 25 percent of residents are foreign-born non-citizens, according to the American Community Survey.

Because congressional representation—and federal aid—is determined by population count, not the number of citizens, Democrats and their districts gain an advantage. But there’s a cynical bargain here. Democrats “represent” millions of constituents who have not voted for them—and, by definition, may not. This is not just a partisan matter; it’s a problem for a healthy democracy.

Read more: City Journal