Former Commerce & Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, a former resident of California, was 11 when he and his family were sent to live in an internment camp in Wyoming.
Wartime animosity toward the Japanese and fear of another attack blurred into a mass hysteria of racial profiling that led to xenophobic and hateful policies. The internment of American citizens of Japanese descent during World War II remains one of the darkest and most shameful periods of American history.
History offers us lessons to learn from. It shows us that xenophobia is an expression of fear, but that our society has the strength and resiliency to overcome that desperation and hate.
Unfortunately, President Trump and his administration seemed to have skipped history class. On different occasions, the President has said other countries are “sending people that have lots of problems… They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists,” that “people from shithole countries” are coming to the United States, that “we cannot allow all of these people to invade our country.”
In March, the Trump administration doubled down and announced they would be adding a question to the census pertaining to an individual’s citizenship status.
The census is intended to determine, “the whole number of free persons,” living within the United States. The census is an important tool for the government: according to a Census Bureau report, its data guided more than $675 billion in federal funds during a single fiscal year. That includes critical funding for social programs, for schools, and for our infrastructure. And the data is used to determine the number of representatives a given area needs, because the number of house representatives is relative to the total population.
The Trump administration’s decision to include a question on citizenship has raised concerns from the ACLU and Attorney Generals of twelve different states. A lawsuit from California quoted a 2017 Census Bureau memo that reported a recent rise in immigrants’ fears about the confidentiality of the census, some citing speeches, tweets, and actions by President Trump.
If immigrants were to ignore the census, it could reduce the number of congressional seats and the amount of federal funding states with large numbers of foreign-born residents receive. That includes California, which has more than any other state.
And while the Census Bureau has made promises to uphold its standards of privacy, immigrants still have reason to worry.
This administration’s actions can produce a census that leaves many people uncounted. The Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus have both denounced the added question. Congresswoman Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY) has introduced legislation that would block the question from being added. I would support that legislation in Congress.
The census is meant to count everyone — regardless of citizenship. The census is a tool for acquiring data that is used to run the country. We cannot allow it to be weaponized as a political tool. We need to speak out in defense of our immigrant community. We refuse to let them be pushed into the shadows. We stand alongside them in their fight for respect, dignity, and equal treatment. We must stand up to President Trump and his administration. And on November 6th, we must hold him accountable.