Monday, July 8, 2019




          The Census ball is now very much in California’s court. President Trump’s bald effort to punish California for providing Hillary Clinton with her 2016 popular vote majority has been at least blunted by a narrow 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court decision in June tossing the issue of a citizenship question back to the lower court that previously nixed it.

          It’s anyone’s guess whether the Census Bureau now controlled by Trump lied when it said it has started printing Census forms without the question: “Is this person a citizen of the United States?”

          But there’s no guesswork about what could happen if that query is included. Since 1949, Census officials have said using the question widely would cause vast undercounts of undocumented immigrants who don’t trust Census assurances of confidentiality and fear deportation as a consequence of participating. Census confidentiality promises have been honored in the past.

Trump’s minions lied consistently about why they want the question in. They said it was to help the Justice Department enforce the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which has never been enforced under Trump. New evidence emerging since that federal court in Maryland ruled the question out, in the form of previously secret emails, plainly shows the motive for the question is entirely political.

          The Supreme Court decision hinged on the obvious disgust of Chief Justice John Roberts, a Republican appointee of ex-President George W. Bush, over lies told by Trump’s secretary of commerce, Wilbur Ross. Roberts wrote that those falsehoods demanded he cast a rare vote with the high court’s four-member liberal minority, possibly deep-sixing the question.

          Meanwhile, the Constitution requires every human being in the country be counted, citizen or not.

Ross has insisted he sought to insert the citizenship query used before 1950 because of the Justice Department’s desire.

          The prior lack of Voting Rights Act enforcement made that statement enough of a lie to offend Roberts. Did Ross also lie when he said the Census Bureau, which he supervises, had to start printing forms by July 1 for them to be ready for the March 1 beginning of the count?

          Meanwhile, Trump proposes to ignore the Supreme Court and include the question by executive order. If Ross and the Census Bureau are not lying about the print timetable, of course, Trump would have to be content with including the query only on some forms or as an addendum.

Trump also has speculated about delaying the Census, contrary to law and precedent.

          All this leaves any Census-driven parts of California’s future up to Californians. If a citizenship question spurs millions of the undocumented to refuse participation, this state could lose at least one seat in Congress, one or two electoral votes in presidential elections and many billions of federal dollars earmarked for housing, highways, sewers, public schools and much more.

          Question or none, an undercount will only happen if Californians let it. Most Census experts believe low participation rates caused at least one million to two million Californians not to be counted in the 2010 Census. A repeat would make life more difficult and less consequential for many Californians.

          So Californians, whether citizens or not, must step up now and protect their own interests. Anticipating something like today’s scene, ex-Gov. Jerry Brown and state legislators last year allocated $90.3 million for Census information and outreach.

          That’s about $3 for every California resident, which the state will spend encouraging participation and discouraging anyone who’s thinking of hiding from federal Census takers. Brown and his allies considered spending $90-plus million on TV and newspaper ads, social media and community meetings a prudent investment that promises to produce far more in new money than it costs.

          The effort is needed because, even without the decrements brought by a Census undercount, Trump already allots an average of about 6 billion less federal dollars each year to California than it got under ex-President Barack Obama.

          The one way to change this kind of steady mistreatment, minimization and denigration of California while Trump holds office is to maximize the state’s Census count. That will only happen if virtually all Californians participate.

    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit

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