Including a citizenship question in the U.S. Census would be a horror as unspeakable as the Dred Scott decision or the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) told a House hearing Wednesday.
“Citizenship” is “an acknowledge of power” and comes from being “a person in our democracy,” and not from a Supreme Court decision, Ocasio-Cortez said, alluding to the high court’s anticipated ruling on the constitutionality of adding a citizenship question to the Census:
“Unspeakable horrors have been executed by the United States in the name of citizenship. In the name of determining who is a citizen. And, by citizen, we mean who is a person in our democracy. That is what citizenship means. It is an acknowledgment of personhood, in American democracy, an acknowledgment of power.”
Illegal government use of Census citizenship information has been sanctioned by past Supreme Court decisions, such as the Dred Scott and the Korematsu (Japanese internment) cases, she argued:
“And, when I think about the Supreme Court decision, with this, I think about Dread Scott. I think about Korematsu versus the United States, where the Supreme Court upheld Japanese internment regardless of the citizenship status of Japanese-Americans.
“And, how did that start? It started with the United States Census. It started with the United States Census. We have laws on the books, saying that information from the census cannot be used in any other way, that it must be confidential. And what happened? When the federal government, the executive branch, the president of the United States - I don't care if he was a Democrat; I don't care if he was a Republican, it was wrong.”
“And what he did, he asked for information, and the Census Bureau broke the law, and divulged information on zip codes where Japanese-Americans were concentrated. And that information was used to intern (sic) American citizens and non-American citizens alike, and the Supreme Court upheld that. Dred Scott, a black man suing for his freedom, came right before the United States Supreme Court, and what they said was that the U.S. Constitution did not give African-Americans citizenship.”
The Supreme Court has “gotten it wrong” by sanctioning these “unspeakable violations of human rights and civil liberties,” and it would be wrong again, if it allows the Census question, Ocasio-Cortez said:
“They have gotten it wrong. The Supreme Court has gotten it wrong. And unspeakable violations of human rights and civil liberties have been executed by the United States government in that, in light of that. And I can tell you, with this Supreme Court argument, they could very well get it wrong again.”