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Census question would have been best solution

The Trump administration seems to be involved in some legal and procedural gymnastics as it tries to get citizenship data into the hands of the Census Bureau. Courts and critics have aligned against the administration, prompting its “creative” actions.

The fundamental problem is the Supreme Court’s decision last summer not to allow a citizenship question on the 2020 Census form. A majority of justices found the administration’s justification for the question to be “contrived.” Which is understandable, given the particular legal argument the administration chose to make.

In the wake of the court’s decision, Trump ordered the Census Bureau to collect citizenship information through administrative records from federal agencies, such as Homeland Security. Critics, however, say citizenship data can change over time, so this method is likely to be inaccurate. Yet those critics are not suggesting the most obvious and accurate solution: a citizenship question on the 2020 Census.

The Census matters for several reasons, as the local Complete Count Committee recently made clear. It determines population, which subsequently affects representation in Congress. It also relates to funding via government and private grants. Policy decisions, likewise, can be tied to the Census.

If non-citizens are improperly included in the count, how does that skew how actual citizens are represented, or how they receive aid or grants to which they are rightfully entitled? We are sure there are some parts of the country that want non-citizens counted, but how is that fair?

We have no problem with legal immigrants becoming citizens and thereafter enjoying the associated benefits. Until they do, though, the U.S. should not undermine the rights of citizens.

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