Census Bureau Fights To Prevent Spread Of Misinformation

6 hours ago
Originally published on September 13, 2019 6:39 pm


Today the Trump administration is facing a new lawsuit over its efforts to compile citizenship information. This legal challenge comes after federal courts blocked a question about citizenship from being added to the 2020 census. NPR's Hansi Lo Wang has more.

HANSI LO WANG, BYLINE: Back in July, after more than a week of confusion over whether the Trump administration would keep fighting in the courts for a citizenship question, President Trump backed down and announced an executive order.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I am hereby ordering every department and agency in the federal government to provide the Department of Commerce with all requested records regarding the number of citizens and noncitizens in our country.

THOMAS SAENZ: It is clearly used as a substitute for the citizenship question and has many of the same legal flaws that prevented the citizenship question from being added to census 2020.

WANG: Thomas Saenz is the president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which is helping to represent Latinx community groups in a federal lawsuit filed in Maryland. They're trying to block the Census Bureau from gathering government records to produce data about whether every person living in the country is a U.S. citizen, all at the direction of the Commerce Department and the executive order Trump officials rushed to release in July.

SAENZ: There was no process because it was effectively simply a public relations, if you will, face-saving motivation for the release on that day.

WANG: The citizenship data the Census Bureau's trying to put together right now could have major implications on the balance of political power over the next decade. When it comes to redrawing political maps in 2021, state and local governments could use this data when they begin reforming voting districts.


TRUMP: Some states may want to draw state and local legislative districts based upon the voter-eligible population.

WANG: This week, however, the Census Bureau announced that not a single state redistricting official has asked the bureau for that data, and it isn't clear whether that way of redistricting is legal or not.

A major GOP strategist who died last year, Thomas Hofeller, concluded that way of redistricting would politically benefit Republicans and non-Hispanic white people. Thomas Saenz says Hofeller's ideas helped drive the Trump administration's push for citizenship data.

SAENZ: The true rationale is to intimidate and prevent the Latino and Asian American communities from receiving their fair representation in the redistricting process in 2021 and beyond.

WANG: A spokesperson for the Justice Department, which represents the administration, declined to comment.

Hansi Lo Wang, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.