‘A mistake is a 10-year mistake’: How two Queens Congresswomen helped stop Trump’s Census citizenship question

Queens Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (left) and Grace Meng played instrumental roles in fighting the Trump Administration's proposed citizenship question in the 2020 Census.
File photos/QNS

Congresswomen Carolyn Maloney and Grace Meng celebrated a major victory on Tuesday as the Trump administration dropped the controversial citizenship question from the 2020 census after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling temporarily blocked its inclusion on June 27.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who directed the Census Bureau to include the question, “Is this person a citizen of the United States?” suddenly reversed course on July 2.

“The Census Bureau has started the process of printing the decennial questionnaires without the question,” Ross said in a statement. “My focus, and that of the Bureau and the entire Department is to conduct a complete and accurate census.”

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, the co-chair of the House Census Caucus, had warned that a citizenship question would lead to immigrant families to not fill out the form leading to an undercount which would have a drastic effect on New York City.

“The ominous storm cloud over the census has been lifted. This administration is finally following the law,” Maloney said. “Moving forward with the 2020 Census without the citizenship question brings us a step closer to a full and accurate count. Today is a huge win for every American who stands for democracy and equal representation.”

In its ruling, the Supreme Court called Ross’ claim that they needed the question to better enforce the Voting Rights Act was “contrived.”

Congresswoman Grace Meng called the development outstanding news.

“The U.S. Constitution is crystal clear: it requires the census to count everybody in the country, not just citizens,” Meng said. “The tortuous path to this conclusion was littered with lies, obfuscation, and obstruction from the administration, including Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross lying straight to my face about the origins of the question.”

During a hearing last March, Meng asked Ross if the president or anybody in the White House spoke to him and his team about adding the citizenship question. He said he was not aware of any discussions, but then a court filing later revealed that Ross did talk about the issue with the White House’s then-Chief Strategist Steve Bannon.

“The plan to ask respondents if they are citizens was never about ‘protecting’ minority voting rights. It was about depressing response rates in immigrant communities in order to skew the census in favor of the GOP,” Meng said. “Since the fate of the citizenship question has now been decided, the fate of those who sought to add it should be investigated to uncover their intentions, and I will continue to call for a probe of Secretary Ross.”

In explaining the importance of an accurate census, Maloney explained that “New York alone receives $73 billion per year based on census data for critical and lifesaving programs. And of course, census data is used to assign seats in the House of Representatives, apportion votes in the Electoral College, and draw legislative districts at every level of government. It is literally the backbone of our democracy.”

Meng concurred.

“I can not stress enough how critical is it for everyone to fill out the Census,” she said. “It is vital, and the importance of having accurate and reliable census data is something that cannot be overstated. There are no do-overs; a mistake is a 10-year mistake.”