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When it comes to divisive national controversies, the U.S. census isn’t often high on the list of topics that inspire intense political debate.
But when the Department of Commerce announced plans to add a question to the 2020 Census asking respondents whether they are citizens of the United States, the proposal was immediately met with backlash.
At this point, at least 18 states and a handful of cities have filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration, seeking to block the question from being added to the census.
“I think a lot of people see this as a politically motivated question,” said Michael Scherer, a national political reporter for The Washington Post. “And I think there’s a lot of evidence to suggest that including it at this late date is politically motivated.”
On this week’s episode of the “Can He Do That?” podcast, we’re talking about the census, and how the Trump administration’s push to place this one question onto the 2020 Census is much less simple than it appears.
And if the census already asks for basic personal information like gender, age, race and ethnic origin — why is it such a big deal to tack on an item about whether a person is a U.S. citizen?
We also talk to Lori Aratani, a reporter with The Post who has written about the legal safeguards that keep raw census data from being shared with law enforcement agencies. The safeguards have not always been fail-proof, at least according to researchers who have studied the census’s role in the national tragedy of Japanese internment.
“Those protections are only valid as long as there’s a law protecting people. But things can change — as they did in 1940 for Japanese Americans,” Aratani said.