Donald Trump in Reno, Nevada,” Darron Birgenheier

July 11, 2019, Chicago Sun-Times

The American Civil Liberties Union responded to President Trump’s announcement yesterday that he was giving up his fight to get a citizenship question on the 2020 census by saying that his “attempt to weaponize the census ends not with a ban, but a whimper.”

In a statement, Dale Ho of the organization’s Voting Rights Project said, “He lost in the Supreme Court, which saw through his lie about needing the question for the Voting Rights Act. It is clear he simply wanted to sow fear in immigrant communities and turbocharge Republican gerrymandering efforts by diluting the political influence of [Latinx] communities.”

Meanwhile, the ACLU and many other local and national nonprofits are gearing up for what many believe will be a series of raids by ICE in 10 different cities over this weekend. The president has directed all federal agencies to turn over any records they have of the numbers of citizens and noncitizens in the country to the Department of Commerce. So, to say our communities are in a state of siege is probably putting it mildly.

“The damage has been done,” said Katya Nuques of a community-based group called Enlace Chicago to Marlen Garcia of the Chicago Sun-Times. “It’s tough to get the message out there when people are worried about basic safety.”

Garcia writes:

When the time comes to fill out the census form, immigrants will remember the raids; the administration’s fight to include a question about citizenship on the census short form; the Muslim ban and other proposals to limit legal immigration and asylum cases; plus all that nasty rhetoric.

People will think hard about whether it’s a good idea to be counted. They will worry that completing a census form eventually could lead to their deportation. To many, it will be a no-brainer to ignore the form.

“There has been so much fear and misinformation about what the census is going to be used for, people are unsure,” Jane Lombardi of the nonprofit Erie Neighborhood House told Garcia.

So, despite the fact that the question on the form itself has been dumped for good (we hope), Trump is hardly whimpering. For many, his words and threats have become a shrill terroristic drone, and in such an atmosphere, it will be hard to convince community members to share their whereabouts with the government.—Ruth McCambridge