“Are You A U.S. Citizen?”


President Trump caught hell for for stating as a candidate that border-jumpers are not good people:

When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.

As always, his execution was shaky — including the very odd walkback in the last sentence — but his instinct was spot-on. The average Mexican who jumps the border or overstays his visa is not the average Mexican but the average Mexican criminal. Entering the United States illegally self-selects for criminality, and not just the crime of entering the U.S. illegally.

The easy, cheap shot that Trump simply hates Mexicans has bought him several District Court verdicts that a perfectly legal Executive Order entirely within the Executive power (such as conditions on the entry of refugees) can be struck down on due-process grounds because, essentially, we know what Trump must have been thinking.

Now, the Administration’s decision to include in the 2020 Census the question, “Are you a U.S. citizen?” is being treated in the same way. The question was on the 1950 Census, and afterwards was still on the long form given to a fraction of residents. (The long form contains dozens of questions about homestead and lifestyle where surprises in either direction could justify many new manage-by-the-numbers federal programs.)

The original purpose of the Census was to apportion the House of Representatives according to population. Oddly, U.S. law apportions according to residents (including illegal residents) and not citizens. Citizens deserve a voice, but apparently so do foreigners living in public housing on their Electronic Benefit Transfer card. The latter cannot vote (legally), but their presence means their state gets extra Congressional seats, which means they get additional political power. California and New York both fear losing several seats if the 2020 Census undercounts illegals, and have both sued the federal government.

Robert Shapiro, the Commerce undersecretary who supervised the 2000 Census in the Bill Clinton administration, has predicted, for the Brookings Institution, that 24.3 million people may boycott the 2020 count.

This is rather larger than the official estimate of 11 to 12 million (an estimate that conservatives routinely triple). Either way, the fact that tens of millions of residents either evaded, or violated the terms of, admission is a public policy disaster and the first step would be to try to get good data on its magnitude.

There is politics on both sides; Democrats control the states to which an accurate count would deny seats, and especially in California, actively support illegal migration and many other forms of misbehavior, including creating a cuddly but deceptive sterotype of “Dreamers.” Democrats benefit from over-allocation of seats to welfare-magnet states, and persons entering the U.S. illegally do vote illegally, and vote overwhelmingly for Democrats.

Republicans claim to need the data to enforce the Voting Rights Act. (This law is an open-ended presumption of guilt against local voting districts, including a few that have no non-whites who could have been disadvantaged, that the Supreme Court curtailed in 2013 and that real conservatives ought to have repealed outright.) But Republicans, and their America-first President, will gain seats if districts cease to count illegals.

It is not that the federal government would use the data to track down and expel criminal aliens. The law protects personally identifiable data for 72 years, even from the FBI. It is that the guilty themselves will decline to respond.

We did not know before, and we will not know for sure after the 2020 Census, the magnitude of the problem of illegal entry. Despite this, we will continue to wrestle over building a border wall, as the foreigners who “cannot come out of the shadows” can come down to City Hall for a protest, flying Mexican flags, on a weekday while the rest of us are at our jobs. We will continue to pay for public and private resources to be offered to illegals in a dozen languages. Ultimately, we do not have an immigration problem but a freebies problem.

But the decision to merely ask whether the respondent is a legal citizen is a small step in the direction of wanting accurate measurement, wanting all people to obey the law, and wanting political power to mostly reside in the hands of those who have made a permanent commitment to the place. Hence the hysteria.

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