Citizenship Questions, the Census, and Continued Attacks on Immigrants

By Bill Williams, July 17,2019


On July 11, 2019, President Trump scrapped his plan to place a citizenship question on the 2020 Decennial Census and instead ordered federal agencies to provide citizenship data to the Census Bureau. Nevertheless, it is worthwhile pursuing what such a question would have done, its purpose, and other related subjects.

A Vicious Betrayal

I used to work at the Census Bureau (1974-1979), and I processed the entire 1970 Decennial Census many times for many different projects. I was familiar with how the Decennial Census is collected and processed. While I was not directly involved in the collection of Census data, I worked with people who were involved with it. Despite all efforts at trying to convince vulnerable minorities that the Census Bureau, unlike Immigration and Naturalization, is not out to harm them, it is nevertheless treated with distrust. This distrust is well founded, as I found out. During my last years at the Bureau, there was a test of the Census questionnaires in a certain Texas city. This was essentially a dry run for the actual 1980 Census. The Census Bureau put out the word that they will treat your information with care and keep it confidential and so on and so forth. The day after the test, immigration ran massive raids on that same city.

To be honest, I didn’t think that the Census Bureau would pull a stunt like that, but it just goes to show that ordinary people in that city knew the score a lot better than I did, and that I was buying the government’s lies. That was an eye opener for me – a much needed one.

What the Citizenship Question Would Do

As you can see, putting a citizenship question on the Census would scare away many people from answering it, leaving only those who are citizens already – and those who are disposed to filling out government questionnaires. Such persons are typically established citizens who tend to be white. Since Congressional seats are apportioned according to the Census, this favors conservative politicians. Fortunately, there will be no such question on next year’s 2020 Census form, but depending on your citizenship status, you aren’t necessarily out of trouble.

People hide themselves from the Census. The Census Bureau has a good estimate of the number of black people, has a poor estimate of the number of Hispanics – as best I can recall, plus or minus 10 percent. And they have no idea how many Native Americans there are. Thus, the knowledge of the Census Bureau is in rough inverse proportion to the oppression faced by the respondents – just as you would expect.

Programs That Depend on the Census

Many Federal government programs depend on the Census results: education, housing, public health and so on. But the Census results are skewed in a number of ways. First, because of the mass incarceration of people of color, there are many people of color in prisons that tend to be in rural areas, a considerable distance from the central cities where most of the inmates live. The Census count of the prisoners places them in the zip code of the prison where they are incarcerated, not in the central city zip code where they came from. So, the Census counts in these rural areas are artificially increased by the large number of prisoners in the local prison. In this way, these rural communities receive Federal monies out of all proportion to their actual population while at the same time the central city areas are deprived of the Federal monies they need.

In the same way, areas that contain undocumented workers, who cannot participate in the Census, receive less Federal monies than they should get. This causes inadequate medical care, housing and education for the families of undocumented workers.

Depend on the Democrats? Are you kidding?

The demonization of Mexican migration has been on going since the early 20th Century, but the hardline policy of making life difficult and dangerous for undocumented workers was first rolled out by Democratic President Bill Clinton in 1994.  It was called the “Border Patrol Strategic Plan 1994 and Beyond.”  This policy has been supported by Democratic and Republican presidents since then. Here is the basic idea of the policy.

[The Border Patrol Strategic Plan of 1994]: prevention through deterrence. “Let’s build border walls in front of San Diego, in front of El Paso and a couple of other major cities along the border, and let’s purposely force migration through the deserts and through the mountains.” That’s on purpose because we’re going to let the terrain take care of them. The Border Patrol knew that people were going to get sick, they were going to be dehydrated—this is all in the document—and that they may die.

The policy has been made even more vicious by the current Administration. Now it is intended that undocumented migrants should die, as it is a crime to supply them with necessities such as food, water, clean clothing, etc., and mass graves have been discovered.

Texas says there is “no evidence” of wrongdoing after mass graves filled with bodies of immigrants were found miles inland from the U.S.-Mexico border. The bodies were gathered from the desert surrounding a checkpoint in Falfurrias, Texas, in Brooks County. An investigation was launched after the mass graves were exposed last November in a documentary by The Weather Channel in partnership with Telemundo and The Investigative Fund. The report also found many of the migrants died after crossing into the United States and waiting hours for Border Patrol to respond to their 911 calls. …

It should be kept in mind that Democratic President Obama, deported more people than any other president. It was Obama, not Trump, who first placed undocumented workers in Fort Sill, the concentration camp used as an internment camp for Japanese people during World War II!

All the talk about giving undocumented workers a better break by the Democratic candidates is just that: talk. But, watch what they do: on June 25, House Democrats voted overwhelmingly to provide the American immigration Gestapo with $4.6 billion to round up and jail thousands of immigrant children in concentration camps. The vote exposes the Democrats as a thoroughly anti-immigrant party that is hostile to the democratic rights of the entire working class. By a margin of 305 for, 102 against, (129 for, 95 against among Democrats), the Democratic-controlled House passed a Senate version of the appropriations bill that provides carte blanche to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to systematically brutalize working class children without any additional regulation or oversight. The Senate vote was 84 for, 8 against, and 34 of 47 Senate Democrats voted for it. Seven Democrats—including Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and Cory Booker– did not vote because they were too busy campaigning for president to vote on this huge attack on immigrants. It would be interesting to hear their excuses for such a betrayal.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez voted to bring the House version to the floor for a full vote. This critical vote passed by the slimmest of margins thanks to the support of Ocasio-Cortez and fellow “progressive” Democrats Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib. Later that day, the House version passed, handing the initiative to the Senate. Democratic leadership then allowed Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, Pressley and Tlaib to cover their role by voting “no” for the final bill after passage of the bill was already secured.


There is another darling of the liberals who needs exposure; namely Caesar Chavez. Here are policies that Chavez put in place within the United Farm Workers union:

“Undocumented” workers always had the hope of finding protection in the union in exchange for their participation in the long struggle. The union distributed work through a hiring hail and almost immediately, these “undocumented” workers were confronted with an enormous sign above the window of the office that said (exactly): “No workers without legal residency papers in the U.S. may work where there are contracts, and may not be members of this Union.” So these workers could not obtain the benefits nor protections that they had hoped to achieve through the union. But this was just the beginning of a ferocious campaign that Chavez let loose later against the “undocumented” workers. By 1973, Chavez had established what came to be known publicly as the “Wet Line” in the area of Yuma, Arizona. It consisted of a number of army tents along the border with a group of men in each tent. Chavez’s cousin, Manuel Chavez, was in charge of assisting the immigration agents in detaining whoever tried to cross the border into the U.S. illegally. If men like Chavez are the leaders defending the workers, what do we need enemies for?  (See blog piece on Camacho, organizer in the farm fields of California).

Unfortunately, many labor misleaders get on the bandwagon of anti-immigrant hysteria. The immigrants are used as a convenient distraction to deflect attention from the deliberate failure of the union leadership to improve the lot of their memberships. The misleaders want to blame the immigrants and collect those dues – and that’s all. To be clear, success in the struggle against the bosses does NOT depend on this or that great leader, although good leadership is helpful, but instead depends on the organization of the workers themselves. The union misleaders are not interested in the proper organization of their membership.

The International Workers of the World (IWW) advocated organizing Chinese and Japanese workers (called the “Yellow Peril” by the government) in 1907 when they stated:

All workers can be organized regardless of race or color, as soon as their minds are cleared of the patriotic notion that there is any reason of being proud of having been born of a certain shade of skin or in an arbitrarily fenced off portion of the earth…..

Sentiments like that could greatly help the working class of today! We will return to this important theme again.

Entertainment for Trump’s Fascistic Base

President Trump’s promises on Friday, July 12, 2019 that the Administration would execute a series of immigration arrests nationwide added to fears that have been growing in immigrant communities for more than a month. The operation will target some 2,000 undocumented immigrants who crossed the border recently, in groups of family units. That is a departure from what is typical for Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, who tend to focus on deporting adults who entered the country alone. But word of the operation seems to have struck fear across undocumented communities, including among people who have been living here for years. These raids were slated to begin on Sunday, July 14, 2019.

Smash racist deportation, working people have no nation!

Working people have no nation; the borders that are setup only benefit the bosses. Let me make this clear by giving an example.

In the agricultural fields of California there is difficult and tiring work with low pay. Since the jobs are supposedly open to anyone who applies, the bosses pretended to hire local workers, but the braceros from Mexico are greatly preferred. Why? The braceros are foreign workers whose working papers can be withdrawn by the company that hired them at any time. Consequently, they are forced to be quite docile when it comes to complaining about the abuses of their employers. Pay is low, wage theft is rampant, and working conditions are abysmal. It is very difficult to organize such workers because any attempt at unionization will be met with deportations, as the employer working hand-in-glove with the government will see to it that all striking or militant workers will have their work papers pulled. Non-bracero workers are actively discouraged from taking such jobs by overloading them with arduous work. The bosses are fine with undocumented workers, as long as they can viciously exploit them.

This is just one example, but borders have been used to steal from workers since before the beginning of the industrial revolution in the early 19th century. The bosses don’t believe in any kind of rule of law and will use racism, anti-immigrant racism and anything else they can to divide us and steal from us.

We must struggle for a society without borders or any of the other fictions of a class divided society. A multi-racial, multi-cultural struggle is essential.

Same enemy, same fight, workers of the world unite! 

¡El mismo enemigo, la misma lucha, los trabajadores del mundo se unen!

3 thoughts on “Citizenship Questions, the Census, and Continued Attacks on Immigrants”

  1. Nice article! Democrats as well as Republicans are mostly lobbyists which means that for someone dead immigrants are better than live immigrants for specific purposes. Anyhow, I also intend to discuss similar social problems in my blog


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