OPINION
04/01/2018 12:28 pm ET

For GOP, Counting 'Every Person Living' Means Only Counting White People

Republican lawmakers applaud president Donald Trump outside the White House, Dec. 20, 2017.
Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images
Republican lawmakers applaud president Donald Trump outside the White House, Dec. 20, 2017.

As the 2010 census was approaching, my former boss, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), introduced a resolution:

Expressing the sense of the House that, in accordance with Article I, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, that ‘in conducting the 2010 decennial census, the Secretary of Commerce should use all legal and reasonable means to count every person living in the United States, any territory or possession of the United States, or the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and all Federal civilian and military personnel serving abroad.’

The resolution garnered 50 Republican cosponsors, including Reps Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), who is now the chief deputy whip for the Republican House caucus, Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the former head of the House Freedom Caucus, and Steve King (R-Iowa), one of the most conservative members of the chamber’s GOP conference.

Let me reiterate, the resolution supported by some of the most conservative members of the Republican Party specifically called for the counting of “every person living in the United States.”

There was no language about citizenship or legal status in the GOP resolution.

And yet, as President Donald Trump’s administration moves to change the census by asking a question specifically about citizenship, Republican voices are predictably mute.

The Trump administration is presiding over the most overt politicization of the census we have ever seen. The intent of the citizenship question is to deliberately undercount minority populations because Republicans and the president Trump are losing with minority voters in record fashion. They don’t want to change their policies or extreme rhetoric and so they are moving to suppress minority voices.

Couple that with the alarming escalation of xenophobic rhetoric emanating from Trump and the only conclusion you can reasonably draw is that adding this question to the standard census form for the first time in 70 years is an overtly racist attempt to ensure minorities and immigrants are not counted in the 2020 census. Trump and Republicans must realize that, in the long run, their extreme brand of racism masquerading as conservatism will make the GOP an endangered species.

The Trump administration is presiding over the most overt politicization of the census we have ever seen.

D. Sunshine Hillygus, one of about 15 outside experts on the Census Scientific Advisory Committee who advise the census bureau, said the last minute addition of the citizenship question should be a wake-up call to us all: “I want to say in no uncertain terms that I think this is an absolutely awful decision. I am dumbfounded that this decision is coming in at such a late date. My view is that this is going to have severe negative implications for data quality and costs.”

The reality is that, since taking office, Trump has presided over draconian policies designed to attack the very heart of immigrant communities in the United States. From the unconstitutional travel ban to rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and attacking Dreamers, Trump has made his intentions clear.

Understandably, there is a lot of concern about what this administration would do with a list that details who is a citizen and who is not. It is conceivable, if not likely, that Trump and his administration would use this list to attack immigrants and minorities in this country.

That possibility will inevitably lead to minorities and immigrants to decide it’s not worth the risk to participate in the census. This will lead to a dramatic undercount of minorities in the population. Financial resources will not be apportioned accurately. Representation will be decided differently. In short, this will have a cascading effect that will far outlast this president.

The bottom line is Republicans either live up to their own standard that “every living person in the United States” is counted or they are declaring that they do not view immigrants and minorities as persons that deserve to be counted. They are knowingly relegating them to second-class status in America. They want to empower Trump to have a list of citizens and noncitizens to continue the war against people who don’t look like them. They want to use the 2020 census to rig the next 10 years of elections. To reverse the course of social progress. To ensure that the only rule we have in America is white rule.

Kurt Bardella is a HuffPost columnist. He is a former spokesman and senior adviser for the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.). He also served as a spokesman for former Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and former Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Calif). Follow him on Twitter at @kurtbardella.

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