Since the announcement from the Commerce Department that the 2020 Census questionnaire will include a question asking participants whether or not they are citizens, the hosts and guests of CNN's New Day have been working overtime to try and convince Americans that this proposal is racist. CNN Political Analyst John Avlon argued that the change is "designed to drive down participation and benefit Republicans politically."
During an interview with Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) on Tuesday’s edition of New Day, co-host Chris Cuomo asked the Congressman for his thoughts on the change to the census questionnaire. Dent indicated that he did not have a problem with “putting that question in.” Cuomo worried that people in the country illegally “won’t want to come forward” and answer the census at all. According to Cuomo, “not having the right numbers has played to GOP advantage in the past in terms of underreporting and what you were able to do with redistricting as a result.”
Dent, hardly a fan of President Trump, argued that states like Pennsylvania have lost many seats in redistricting over the years to states with a large number of illegalimmigrants, such as California: “If you actually did redistricting based on the number of citizens...states in the rust belt...would not have lost as much representation in Washington because we count based on number of people.”
Cuomo then decided that the large volume of illegal immigrants in the country highlights the need for “comprehensive immigration reform”: “It will be interesting though to see what happens when this question is asked and you do have a huge part of the people and the population that are not citizens. It will really magnify the need to do something about these people and figure out whether or not the idea of expulsion as the main route of dealing with that population is even practical.”
Cuomo and co-host Alisyn Camerota brought up the controversy over the census changes to CNN Political Analysts John Avlon and Karoun Demirjian on Wednesday’s edition of New Day. Demirjian argued that the additional question in the census questionnaire asking about immigration status only serves as the latest example of the Trump Administration’s war on illegal immigrants. She reiterated the point Cuomo made to Congressman Dent a day earlier, “Asking that question is in many ways an incentive for people not to answer any questions at all.”
According to Avlon, “It is designed to do that”; lamenting that “it’s going to be in the Census and it’s designed to drive down participation and benefit Republicans politically as a result.” Demirjian said that low participation will lead to “an inaccurate count.”
Cuomo agreed with Avlon and Demirjian that the proposed change to the Census questionnaire was politically motivated: “If you wind up having population counts in states like California, where they estimate you may have as much as 15 percent of the population is non-citizen, they’re going to get less money based on their population number so this is going to hurt blue states, which is upside for Republicans.”
Cuomo’s logic doesn’t add up. While California, a blue state, has a very high share of non-citizens, Texas, a red state, also has a very high share of non-citizens. Yet you don’t hear the media saying that the census change is “going to hurt red states.”
As the segment on Wednesday came to a close, Avlon sarcastically mentioned that “The argument they’re actually using is we should go back to the standard between 1820 and 1950. Great years for voting rights.” In reality, the citizenship question was included in the 2000, 1990, and 1980 census questionnaires. The 2010 census conducted by the Obama administration removed the question. Perhaps the press should get those basic facts right before lecturing on the topic.
CNN New Day
CHRIS CUOMO: Putting back in the 2020 census questionnaire, are you a citizen, putting that question back in. Are you in favor?
REP. CHARLIE DENT: Oh. I have no, I have no objection to that. I really don’t. It’s important that we get accurate counts of all people in this country, whether they’re here legally or illegally. I don’t have a problem with putting that question in. I mean, I know there are some people who object to it but I think it’s reasonable.
CUOMO: Well, you’ve got two, two bases of push back. One is chilling effect. You ask that, people will not come forward, same, along the lines, same thing as when you have an ID requirement, people don’t have an ID; they don’t want to come forward. Here, if they’re not citizens, they won’t want to come forward. And not having the right numbers has played to GOP advantage in the past in terms of underreporting and what you were able to do with redistricting as a result. What do you make of those criticisms?
DENT: Well, I’ve, I’ve noticed something too that there are states like mine, Chris, that have, a large percentage of our state’s population are, are citizens. There are some states, say, like California where you have larger non-citizen populations and, and there’s, there’s an argument if you actually did redistricting based on the number of citizens, you know, states in the rust belt, you know, would not have lost as much representation in Washington because we count based on number of people. We should count all people but in terms of Congressional representation, we have lost, we have lost disproportionately relative to states where they have larger non-citizen populations. So I kind of understand the argument. But I guess I would say to you I don’t think there’s anything wrong with just trying to find out how many people are citizens and how many people are non-citizens. There are a lot of people who are in this country who are here illegally, there are legal permanent residents or they’re here on Visas, and we should count them.
CUOMO: And of course, you know, it will be interesting though to see what happens when this question is asked and you do have a huge part of the people and the population that are not citizens. It will really magnify the need to do something about these people and figure out whether or not the idea of expulsion as the main route of dealing with that population is even practical.
CNN New Day
ALISYN CAMEROTA: Hey Karoun, I want to talk to you about the controversy swirling around the census and how they count people, particularly undocumented immigrants here. So Kris Kobach, the Kansas Secretary of State, who you’ll remember had helmed the Voter Fraud Commission until that was disbanded because they couldn’t prove that there was vast voter fraud, as they had claimed. So now, he has sent a letter to Wilbur Ross at Commerce saying that there should be this addition of a question that used to be in the Census but had been taken out. And here’s the question. Is this person a citizen of the United States? To better get a count, right, of who’s a citizen and who’s not, how many undocumented people are here? Why is this such a controversy?
KAROUN DEMIRJIAN: The problem is that it’s a bit of a scary question for people in this time. Look, the, the President has said he’s going to be stepping up the deportations, there’s this question about what the status is about undocumented people who came to the country as children, given that they had some sort of stability with the DACA program, that’s now, you know, always, there’s a debate raging about where that’s going to go once these court orders expire unless Congress takes some action. The situation in the country right now is extremely tenuous for people who are here without status. And so asking that question is in many ways an incentive for people not to answer any questions at all. The census is supposed to be a count of the people in the country.
JOHN AVLON: It is designed to do that. I think that’s the important point. All the bad ideas on voting rights come from Kris Kobach’s coconut. I mean, this has now been adopted by the Commerce, it’s going to be in the Census and it’s designed to drive down participation and benefit Republicans politically as a result.
DEMIRJIAN: And that will be an inaccurate count. Exactly.
CHRIS CUOMO: And look, this is all upside for that strain of thought because it also goes to appropriations. If you wind up having population counts in states like California, where they estimate you may have as much as 15 percent of the population is non-citizen, they’re going to get less money based on their population number so this is going to hurt blue states, which is upside for Republicans.
DEMIRJIAN: It’s appropriations but it’s also keep in mind that when swing states and states that are shifting populations redraw their maps, they based it on the most recent census and that could actually have big effects for what state legislatures look like going forward.
AVLON: And the argument they’re actually using is we should go back to the standard used between 1820 and 1950. Great years for voting rights.