President Donald Trump is stretching the truth in his legally questionable bid to get a citizenship question added to the 2020 census.
Brushing aside a Supreme Court ruling against him and his agencies saying it’s probably too late, Trump is ordering that the question somehow be included anyway, insisting that it’s “almost always” been asked on the census.
That’s wrong. Over the nation’s history, the citizenship question has been left off the census questionnaire more times than not.
Meanwhile, anticipating the 2020 presidential race, Trump is distorting his record in his increasing attacks on the Obama administration, when Democratic candidate Joe Biden served as vice president. Trump falsely asserts that President Barack Obama made it a policy to separate migrant children from their parents when families were caught crossing the border illegally.
The mistruths came in a week in which Trump roused a political tempest when he decided to plant himself squarely in Independence Day observances with a speech from the Lincoln Memorial.
A look at recent claims, also covering veterans, the economy and more:
TRUMP: “Think of it: 15 to 20 billion dollars, and you’re not allowed to ask them, ‘Are you a citizen?’ And, by the way, if you look at the history of our country, it’s almost always been asked. … Citizenship has been on that thing most of the time for many, many years. So it’s very shocking that, after spending $15 billion, it’s not on.” — remarks to reporters Friday at the White House.
KEN CUCCINELLI, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services: “I think that if you look at what we’ve asked over the years, including, of course, the citizenship question, famously — asked many, many times through our history — we ask a lot of other information as well.” — interview on “Fox News Sunday.”
THE FACTS: Trump and his administration are incorrect in suggesting that citizenship status has been a default question in the census, having been “almost always” asked on the form.
The Census Bureau hasn’t included a citizenship question in its once-a-decade survey sent to all U.S. households since 1950, before the Civil Rights era and passage of a 1965 law designed to help ensure minority groups in the count are fully represented. The nation’s count is based on the total resident population — both citizens and noncitizens — and used to determine how many U.S. representatives each state gets in the U.S. House.
According to January 2018 calculations by the Census Bureau, adding a citizenship question to the decennial census would cause lower response rates among noncitizens, leading to an increased cost to the government of at least $27.5 million for additional phone calls, visits and other follow-up efforts to reach an estimated 630,000 missed households — or more than 1 million people. The Constitution requires a count every 10 years of “the whole number of persons in each state,” long understood to include all residents of the U.S.
The Trump administration had argued that the question was being added to aid in enforcement of the Voting Rights Act, which protects minority voters’ access to the ballot box. But a majority of the Supreme Court said last week that reasoning was “contrived.” The Justice Department had never previously sought a citizenship question in the 54-year history of the landmark voting rights law.
From 1970 to 2000, the question was included only in the long-form section of the census survey, which is sent to a portion of U.S. households, not as part of the official count of all U.S. residents. After 2000, the question has been asked on the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, a separate poll sent only to a sample of U.S. households.
The first U.S. census was conducted in 1790, and a citizenship question was added in 1820. Still, between 1820 and 1950, the question wasn’t asked in four censuses — 1840, 1850, 1860 or 1880.
That means out of the 23 censuses conducted in the U.S. since 1790, a citizenship question has only been asked 10 times — or 43 percent of the time.
TRUMP: “Under President Obama, we had separation. … They had a separation policy. Right? I ended it.” — remarks June 29 in Japan.
TRUMP: “Well, as you know, President Obama had separation.” — remarks Friday to reporters.
THE FACTS: He’s wrong. The separation of thousands of migrant children from their parents resulted from Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy. Obama had no such policy. After a public outcry and a court order, Trump generally ceased the practice.
Zero tolerance meant that U.S. authorities would criminally prosecute all adults caught crossing into the U.S. illegally. Doing so meant detention for adults and the removal of their children while their parents were in custody. During the Obama administration, such family separations were the exception. They became the practice under Trump’s policy.
Before Trump’s zero-tolerance policy, migrant families caught illegally entering the U.S. were usually referred for civil deportation proceedings, not requiring separation, unless they were known to have a criminal record.
ECONOMY and TRADE
TRUMP: “The Economy is the BEST IT HAS EVER BEEN!” — tweet Tuesday.
THE FACTS: The economy is not one of the best in the country’s history. It expanded at an annual rate of 3.2 percent in the first quarter of this year. That growth was the highest in just four years for the first quarter.
In the late 1990s, growth topped 4 percent for four straight years, a level it has not yet reached on an annual basis under Trump. Growth even reached 7.2 percent in 1984.
In fact, there are many signs that growth is slowing, partly because of Trump’s trade fights with China and Europe. Factory activity has decelerated for three straight months as global growth has slowed and companies are reining in their spending on large equipment.
Trump is pushing the Federal Reserve chairman, Jerome Powell, to cut short-term interest rates to shore up the economy. That isn’t something a president would do amid the strongest economy in history.
The economy is now in its 121st month of growth, making it the longest expansion in history. But most of that took place under Obama.