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A mean-spirited slap at immigrants

Melvin B. Miller
A mean-spirited slap at immigrants
“I guess he hopes we just starve to death.”

During the 1787 Constitutional Convention the Founding Fathers debated whether slaves should be counted as freemen on the census. The Constitution required a decennial census that would determine the number of representatives to Congress from each state. Once slavery became unconstitutional, Americans never expected until now that the census count would be politicized. But the present administration proposes to require respondents to affirm whether or not they are U.S. citizens.

In 1787 the slave states wanted all of their residents to be counted fully in order to have the maximum number of congressmen. The northern states that did not support slavery believed that they would suffer a disadvantage if slaves, who were more like property, would be counted as freemen.

The negotiated solution was the three-fifths rule which has been misunderstood. Many civil rights advocates believe that blacks have been insulted by being counted only three-fifths of a human being.

Wilbur Ross, the Secretary of Commerce who is responsible for conducting the census, decided in March of 2018 to add a citizenship question. His reason for doing this is obscure but the expectation is that many immigrants will be reluctant to participate in such a census and the total will consequently be under-reported.

In addition to determining the number of congressmen, the census results also determine the volume of federal benefits available to the various state in proportion to the size of their population. Many view this policy as little more than another mean spirited attack on undocumented immigrants. Public services for them would be less.

The case is before the U.S. Supreme Court and analysts expect it will be decided in favor of the administration.