U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin Monday slammed the Trump administration’s continued efforts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, calling those moves a ploy to suppress the count of Latino residents.
“It is impossible to describe where we are, how this disarray will play out. But I’ll tell you what’s obvious,” Durbin said. “After four different failed attempts, we now know the real reason for putting the citizenship question on the census: to discourage Hispanic Americans from answering the questionnaire.”
After a whirlwind of activity the past few weeks, the fate of the citizenship question is unclear.
For months, officials awaited a U.S. Supreme Court decision to settle the matter. However, in late June, the high court remanded the case to a lower court. In an effort to ensure that census questionnaires would go out in time, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced early last week that the U.S. Census Bureau had begun printing census materials without the citizenship question.
Last Wednesday, President Trump tweeted that he was “absolutely moving forward” with the citizenship question fight, tasking the U.S. Department of Justice with finding a legal path for the question to be added.
Over the July Fourth weekend, the justice department changed up its team of lawyers working on the issue. And on Monday, U.S. Attorney General William Barr told The Associated Press that the Trump administration will take action this week to allow the government to ask the citizenship question.
Durbin said the Republican-controlled Senate would block any efforts to challenge Trump on this issue.
“Unfortunately, the Republican Senate under Sen. [Mitch] McConnell is not going to allow us to pass anything that’s going to maintain the integrity of the census,” he said.
As for Durbin’s office, he said he has “little power” to ensure a robust count among Illinoisans.
“We encourage people to answer the census questionnaire; that’s the best we can do,” Durbin said. He added that he understood residents’ fear, “when we’re living under threat of mass arrests and mass deportations.”
Esther Yoon-Ji Kang is a reporter for WBEZ’s Race, Class and Communities desk. Follow her on Twitter @estheryjkang.