Scott Peters Voices Concerns Regarding Addition of Citizenship Question to Census

April 2, 2018

Rep. Peters voiced his concerns regarding the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 census. 

He was quoted on the topic in an April 1 piece for The San Diego Union-Tribune, posted below:

Column | Trump’s latest immigration gambit puts Democrats back on their heels

By Michael Smolens

April 1, 2018

President Donald Trump during his visit to San Diego on March 13 to examine border wall prototypes in Otay Mesa. (K.C. Alfred / Union-Tribune)

President Donald Trump has California Democrats on the defensive over immigration these days.

He’s moved to put a citizenship question on the 2020 census and is picking up support from some California cities and counties in his fight against the state’s sanctuary laws.

Policy merits aside, the politics may work for Republicans, at least in the macro sense.

Not surprisingly, the San Diego-area congressional delegation is split along party lines on the census question, while Republican boards and councils are the ones lining up to join Trump’s lawsuit to dismantle the sanctuary statutes.

The citizenship question on its face doesn’t seem like a big deal: Let’s use the census to count how many citizens actually live here. That’s a simple concept to grasp.

The reason we shouldn’t is less so. Most experts and current and former census officials say it will result in an undercount — when the main purpose of the census is to get an accurate count of who’s actually living here, regardless of citizenship. There’s plenty of empirical and anecdotal evidence that even legal immigrants might be reluctant to participate, let alone those who are unauthorized. The Trump administration says the evidence is not definitive.

An accurate count is important because it helps determine the composition and number of congressional districts — and thus electoral votes — and the distribution of federal funds. That money goes to schools, police departments and all sorts of social service and business programs, among other things.

California is the state with the most immigrants, legal and not, and seems a sure loser if the question remains part of the census. Billions of dollars could go to other states along with one or more congressional districts.

Reps. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, and Darrell Issa, R-Vista, issued statements backing the president on the census. But neither answered a question about the potential loss of funding or congressional districts.

“I fully support efforts to have the census ask if someone is a U.S. citizen or not,” Hunter said in a statement. “… Fact of the matter is, as a sovereign nation, the U.S. has the right to know how many citizens we have residing within our borders.”

Said Issa: “Asking citizenship on the census is unquestionably the right decision. I support this Administration’s commitment to a fair and accurate counting.”

In December, Issa voted against the Republican tax bill, contending that it would raise taxes for some of his constituents. He supports the citizenship question even though it could result in an undercount that could reduce funding for services his constituents rely on.

It may be a coincidence, but in December he was a candidate running for re-election; now he is not.

Hunter acknowledged the tax bill could hurt some Californians, but voted for it because he thought it was the right move for the country overall.

Long ago the once-a-decade census asked a citizenship question but it was dropped in 1950. However, one is included in the American Community Survey, which reaches a smaller number of households.

Many experts say citizenship data already is gleaned from the community survey, so why risk getting an inaccurate census count?

Democrats portrayed the administration’s action as politically motivated.

“This cynical move clearly violates the Constitution, which requires an ‘actual enumeration’ of our population, and is being done purely for political gain,” said Rep. Susan Davis, D-San Diego.

Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego, said: “These numbers determine how federal funds are distributed, businesses rely on them to determine market demands and (they are) used to apportion congressional districts — that’s what this move is all about.”

Rep. Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, also called it another Trump attack on immigrants.

“This is another blatant attempt by President Trump and his Administration to silence the immigrant community and force them to retreat into the shadows,” he said. “… An inaccurate count will have a detrimental effect on underserved communities that require funding for essential services.”

While it appears there would be a general shift of money and political power from blue to red states with smaller immigrant populations, that’s not uniform. New York and Illinois have large unauthorized immigrant populations, but so do Texas and Florida.

California already has sued to keep the citizenship question off the census while New York and other states are gearing up do the same.

Meanwhile, Trump’s lawsuit against Democratic-backed sanctuary laws has gained support within California. Much of the conflict is over SB 54, which prohibits local law enforcement from telling immigration officials when unauthorized immigrants are being released from jail if they haven’t been convicted of one of 800 listed crimes.

Orange County is at the forefront of a growing trend to buck the state’s resistance to Trump. The board of supervisors voted to join the administration’s suit while Yorba Linda agreed to file a brief in support of it. Los Alamitos passed an ordinance seeking to exempt the city from SB 54.

In San Diego County, the Republican-dominated Escondido City Council and board of supervisors plan to discuss joining the Trump suit in the near future. Escondido seems certain to join and the smart money would be on the supervisors doing the same.

San Diego Sheriff Bill Gore said he will recommend the supervisors not go there on public safety grounds. He and many other top law enforcement officials believe if their officers are viewed as immigration agents, immigrants will be reluctant to report crime or agree to be witnesses.

Besides, he said, the state law allows his department to notify immigration officials on the release of many unauthorized immigrants. Keep in mind that San Diego County sheriffs do not lock people up simply because they are in the country illegally, but because they’ve been accused or convicted of committing other crimes.

There’s a public selling point there. Requiring jailers to notify the feds about the release of all unauthorized immigrant criminals, even petty ones, probably has more support than Democrats would like to think.



Peters called ā€œone of the more statesmanlike of our elected representativesā€

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