Rule of Law

Trump Census Citizenship Question Helps Black Americans

(AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

After the Commerce Department decided to ask if people filling out the census are citizens, the crazed racial Left mobilized and called the change the return of Jim Crow. The change to the Census was a plot against minorities.

To them, Jim Crow keeps returning again and again. His return has more sequels than Rocky.

Jim Crow first came back as Voter ID. Jim Crow returned as keeping voter rolls clean. Then Jim Crow rode into town, again, when Kansas sought to ensure that only citizens are registering to vote.

Jim Crow also appeared when the federal Election Assistance Commission allowed Alabama and Georgia to change a federal voter registration form to ensure that only citizens were registering to vote. Jim Crow is also on the loose in Indiana, because that state compares Indiana voter rolls with other states via the interstate cross check program, to make sure people aren’t registered twice.

Jim Crow is on the loose everywhere, it seems. Anytime honest elections are promoted, Jim Crow appears.

I try not to give the crazed Left public relations advice, but it seems that crying wolf over and over isn’t the best strategy.

When it comes to the outrage about the Trump administration asking for citizenship information in the 2020 Census, the Jim Crow strategy is especially absurd.

Why? Because not having citizenship data on the Census most dramatically harms African-Americans.

Let’s borrow the absurd rhetoric of the crazed Left for a moment: the status quo — not asking for citizenship data in the Census — is Jim Crow. Jim Crow hurts black political power, and so does a lack of solid citizenship data in the decennial census.

Here’s how.

In many urban areas, blacks compete with Hispanics for local office, particularly in Democratic Party primaries. Miami, Houston, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York City, and Chicago are places where local Democratic Party politics have deep African-American and Hispanic constituencies. In November, they are rock-solid Democrat voters to defeat Republicans. But in primaries, they often compete.

More importantly, the two groups also compete in line-drawing exercises, where districts are created for school board, county council, statehouse, and Congress. Racial line-drawing — an exercise compelled by the Voting Rights Act whether you like it or not — is reality. Racial line-drawing relies on census data, and each district must have essentially equal population under existing law.

This line drawing counts non-citizen Hispanics to generate Hispanic-majority districts with the minimum total population (citizen and non-citizen combined). But blacks have to ride in the back of the redistricting bus, because they are almost all citizens.

That’s where Trump’s Census change could revolutionize the dynamics of line-drawing in urban communities where blacks and Hispanics have concentrated populations.

Blacks have been losing political power in immigrant-heavy urban cores because non-citizens are not identified by the Census and are counted for redistricting.

And that’s what the critics of Trump’s census change are really terrified of.

Los Angeles provides a particularly stark example. For over a decade, African-American leaders in Los Angeles have been complaining to the Justice Department that blacks have fewer city council seats than they should. Instead, the seats are going to Hispanics because the districts are being drawn to benefit Hispanics instead of blacks.

But how could this happen, you ask? The lines are being drawn that way because the Census does not seek accurate citizenship data in the decennial census, and Los Angeles doesn’t use citizenship population to draw districts of equal citizen population.

Blacks in Los Angeles County are nearly all American citizens. The same is not true for the Los Angeles Hispanic population. Yet the exercise in line-drawing of county council seats treats non-citizens and citizens exactly alike.

These trend lines go back decades, and using census data to draw lines that did not take into account citizenship provided a mighty tailwind for Hispanic politicians to march through and unseat black leadership.

The Justice Department Voting Section has routinely received complaints from black civic leaders in Los Angeles that the DOJ should take action to create an additional African-American seat on council. That’s harder to do with the foggy Census citizenship data now available. As a result non-citizens are given the same political clout in line-drawing as citizens are given.

The Trump administration’s decision to ask for citizenship data can help stop a subtle but effective form of vote dilution in African-American communities. Savvy administration officials might consider defending the 2020 Census on these terms.

Los Angeles isn’t the only city where black citizens are losing political clout because of waves on non-citizen immigration — waves that would be automatically counted for allocating political seats after 2020 if the Trump administration did not act to create a more accurate Census.

Redistricting games are always played on the margins. A line moved a few blocks, a concentrated cluster of one race tossed overboard into a district with a majority of the other race, or a single percentage point buoyed by non-citizens can make all the difference between victory and defeat. The Justice Department didn’t help decades ago when it sued to create more Hispanic districts in Los Angeles — no doubt relying on foggy citizenship data because the citizenship question didn’t exist in the decennial census.

No matter how you slice it, failing to account for non-citizens in drawing district lines hastened the withering away of black political power in Los Angeles.

While it is true that “waves” of Latino immigrants changed the political structure of the city, it happened sooner and at a faster pace than it would have if only citizens were counted for redistricting.

When the Census failed to seek citizenship data, the resulting redistricting always provided non-citizen-heavy places a political subsidy. The earliest and most obvious victims are usually blacks in urban areas.

Had the GOP dreamed up a scheme to dilute black political power by terminating a hypothetical Census citizenship question, we would have heard endlessly about Jim Crow. For a change, the Jim Crow charge would have been accurate.