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The citizenship question

Trump fought tooth-and-nail to include the question, “Are you a Citizen of the United States?” The U.S. Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional.

During the Supreme Court hearings, The Washington Post revealed that a Republican redistricting strategist was behind the effort and openly told White House officials it would “benefit Republicans and white voters” by keeping away immigrant groups and minorities.

After the Supreme Court ruling, Trump told his administration to defy the decision. 

For weeks, White House officials told states and the public that there would be no citizenship question while Trump tweeted the opposite, vowing to put the question on the form through other means. The confusion ultimately spread unfounded fear and anxiety about how the Trump administration would use data collected from the Census. 


The apportionment memo

Immigrant rights groups across the country were outraged in July when Trump released a controversial, unconstitutional memorandum claiming the government would exclude non-citizens from apportionment, the process of redrawing congressional maps based on local population changes.

Because the Supreme Court removed the citizenship question, this act would be impossible even if it were not unconstitutional. But Trump has publicized his efforts and forced state attorney generals to take him to court over it. New York Attorney General Letitia James was in federal court on September 1 attempting to have the memorandum struck down. 

News coverage of the issue in the last weeks of a Census count already hampered by the coronavirus pandemic made the response rates low and scared away immigrants. In an interview with The Washington Post, Senator Brian Schatz said the memo was “an illegal and unconstitutional attempt to scare people from participating in the Census and influence congressional representation.”


Ending the Census count early 

The coronavirus pandemic has had a disastrous effect on the ability of the Census Bureau to get an accurate count. While this is the first Census where people can respond online, the most effective way to count people is through enumerators, who go door to door to get information on households, New York Regional Director for the Census Bureau Jeff Behler told The Haitian Times.

Multiple deadlines for the end of the Census were pushed back to the last date possible, which Bureau officials said was October 31. That would’ve allowed time to send the full count to Congress and the White House by early 2021. 

In August, the Trump administration confounded experts when it shortened the deadline, moving it up to the end of September. It was revealed on September 1 that for certain areas, the in-person count will end even earlier

Multiple leaks from inside the Census Bureau have shown that officials are terrified that the rushed count will lead to a tsunami of mistakes and errors


Jonathan Greig

Jonathan Greig is a journalist based in New York City working as a contributing writer for CBS Interactive. He recently returned to the United States after reporting from South Africa, Jordan, and Cambodia...