Threats to the Census are a Potential Catastrophe for Texas

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At the start of the year, many organizers and campaigns were gearing up for one of the most important undertakings for the country: the decennial census. Now, an operation that is already in flux due to the COVID-19 pandemic is being threatened by the equally dangerous recent Trump White House memo calling for states to exclude undocumented immigrants from the final count.

Required by the Constitution, the census occurs every ten years and is supposed to record all persons living in the United States, regardless of their citizenship. When the Trump administration demanded this year’s census include a citizenship question, the matter went all the way to the Supreme Court. In a 5-4 decision, Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the liberal justices in ruling against the White House.   

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has already said that Congress is going to contest the “unconstitutional and unlawful attempt to impair the Census. Several members of Congress in the Texas delegation have also spoken against this move from the Trump administration, including Rep. Vicente Gonzalez. In a statement he called the move from the White House unconstitutional, and “a distraction intended to divert Americans’ attention away from Mr. Trump’s failings as president.”

While other Attorneys General across the country have lambasted the White House memo, Ken Paxton has remained silent. Paxton, who was indicted for felony securities fraud by a state grand jury, was recently named the co-chair of the Lawyers for Trump Coalition. He did take the time to congratulate Allen West on becoming the new chair of the Texas GOP on Twitter.

If the Trump administration is successful in preventing a full counting for the census, Texas not only stands to lose congressional representation, but also billions of dollars. In a comment to the Texas Signal, Justin Nelson, who ran against Paxton in 2018, highlighted just how much Texas would lose in such a scenario. “The people they aren’t counting aren’t going away, they are still going to use our hospitals, [and] we’re just not going to get funding from the federal government,” he said.

For Nelson, who is a professor at UT Law School, this move is blatantly unconstitutional.  Senator Ted Cruz, a self-described constitutional originalist has also said nothing about the memo. “From an originalist perspective the issue is as settled as it could be,” noted Nelson. Though Cruz has not said anything regarding the census, he has kept himself in the headlines through a social media beef with Mark Cuban.

According to the George Washington Institute of Public Policy, even a 1 percent undercount would cost Texas approximately $291 million in federal funding over 10 years. With hospitals and medical facilities strained beyond capacity now due to COVID-19, any loss of funding would be cataclysmic. 

Based on projections and if the full census is undertaken, Texas could gain at least two congressional seats after 2020. And it’s likely one of those seats would be based in North Texas. 

Carol Donovan, the Chair of the Dallas County Democratic Party is not surprised by the administration’s memo which could harm Texas. “Trump acts like a dictator, so it’s easy for him to disregard what the Supreme Court [ruled],” said Donovan to the Texas Signal. Donovan is also not shocked that Texas Republicans aren’t bothering to speak out against this move. “But it does make me wonder why they are so hellbent on appeasing him.” The original deadline to respond to the census was July 31, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic the new date is October 31. The current census response rate in Texas is lagging below the national average. As of July 2, Texas had a 56.6 response rate, compared to 61.9 percent around the country.

Photo: Bill Oxford/Getty Images

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