There is an unnecessary amount of controversy surrounding whether or not a citizenship question can be added to the upcoming United States census. But now that it’s here, the outcome of the case will say a great deal about the makeup of the Supreme Court and whether or not it has become a body that is driven solely by politics despite the intent of the founders to make sure it never would be.
On the surface, this case seems rather mundane. It’s just a question about the citizenship status of individuals. Some may be wondering what the big deal really is. In reality, it’s a very big deal. Census data is used to determine pretty much everything as it pertains to the relationship between the federal government and the states. Grant money, House of Representative seats, and district allocations are among the many changes that will all be determined by the census.
From a purely political perspective, this should be a no-brainer to conservatives. Of course the question should be included. It’s unfair for states who allow a higher level of illegal immigrants to gain more power as a result. These are not voters (at least they’re not supposed to be). It’s idiotic to give states a great incentives to bring in as many illegal immigrants as possible, so if the presence of a censorship question lowers the numbers reported, that’s not a bad thing.
Politically, the citizenship question is a winning play for conservatives.
But here’s the problem. The judiciary is not supposed to be driven by politics. Their job is to interpret the Constitution and the law of the land to determine how it’s to be enforced by the executive branch and whether the legislative branch is in line with the intent of the Constitution through the laws they establish. By those criteria, the Trump administration has a major problem with the citizenship question. The Census Act clearly states Congress is to be given notice of changes to the census three years in advance. They were not. The citizenship question was not part of the original list sent by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in March, 2017. It was sent in the March, 2018 list, but that’s not enough time for Congress to review if we’re going solely based on the letter of the law.
This is an insanely stupid aspect of the law; it shouldn’t take Congress three years to read a question and determine whether or not they need to make new laws as a result. But it’s the law nonetheless and Ross broke it by not including the question in his original list. It was a rookie mistake made by someone who really shouldn’t be in his position, but what’s done is done.
Part of my heart says the censorship question is righteous and does not violate the Constitution, therefore it should be allowed. But the other part of my heart longs for a judiciary that is truly apolitical, one that does its job as laid out in the Constitution. If that’s the measure of this case, then the Administration clearly did not meet the standards set forth in the law to add the question to the census.
Where I take solace is knowing the balance of political bias within the judiciary favors the left. If it’s impossible to completely remove politics from the judiciary, then any win for conservatism is acceptable just as any loss for conservatism is unwelcome. I desperately want the originalist perspective to prevail in our judiciary, but if such apolitical adherence is only possible when convenient or in a robotic utopia of a truly impartial judiciary, then I’m forced to defer to the side of my heart that says, “Take the win and move on.”
We need the citizenship question in the census, and though I would have preferred to have seen it handled properly by the Commerce Department, I’ll accept a victory on it even if it comes by the hand of conservative bias.