Skip to main content

This Is How Trump’s Census Bureau Is Attempting to Work Around Citizenship Question Ruling


Less than four months after the Supreme Court blocked the Trump Administration from adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, the U.S. Census Bureau reportedly requested that states provide the administration with drivers’ license records that include individual citizenship data.

The administration’s request worried civil rights leaders, many of whom warned that state motor vehicle records are notoriously imprecise, The Associated Press reportedIt wouldn’t be the first time concerns were raised that the Trump Administration’s agencies might use drivers’ license information to achieve immigration policy goals.

Claire Jeffrey, a spokesperson for the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA), told the AP that the administration had sent the request for drivers’ license data to most, if not all, states. The AAMVA told its members that before making any decisions on how to respond to the information requests — which asked for citizenship status, race, birthdates, and addresses — they should consult their privacy officers.

“Each state is making their own determination how to respond,” Jeffrey said in an email to the AP.

At least one state does not plan on providing the administration with the information.

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White said his office had already denied the request.

“We, as a general rule, are not comfortable with giving out our data, certainly not in such a huge amount. That was the overriding concern,” White’s spokesperson Dave Drucker said.

Latino civil rights groups were particularly concerned about the administration’s latest attempt to collect citizenship information on the population.

Andrea Senteno, an attorney for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, told the AP that any reliance on state DMV records for an accurate accounting would be terribly misguided. Noting that such records widely regarded as inaccurate, she said state departments are simply “bad at determining when someone is not a citizen.”

The Supreme Court in June ruled that a citizenship question could not be added to the 2020 Census as planned, reasoning that there was a “significant mismatch between the decision [Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross] made and the rationale he provided.”

After the ruling, evidence from the hard drives of now-deceased Republican strategist Thomas Hofeller appeared to indicate that the administration’s rationale for adding the question was motivated by the prospect of using race-based data to give Republicans an advantage in the 2020 election.

[Image via BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images]

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow Law&Crime:

Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.