As the Supreme Court of the United States prepares to rule in June on the legality of allowing a question regarding citizenship on the 2020 Census, the Kansas Senate appears poised to take a side on the controversial issue.
A group of 13 conservative senators on Wednesday will introduce a resolution to the Senate floor that urges the Census Bureau to collect data on legal residency and citizenship for the first time since 1950 — a move that experts say could result in as many as 6.5 million people not responding to the mandated population count that determines political representation and Electoral College votes.
Collecting citizenship data is necessary, the resolution says, since the population in its current form “includes noncitizens and unauthorized immigrants.” The information collected must remain confidential, according to United States law, and cannot be given to law enforcement or result in deportation.
“Any answer regarding citizenship cannot be disclosed to law enforcement or to any other party for any other purpose and, therefore, would not result in deportation or any other adverse action to an individual,” the resolution reads in part.
The 13 sponsors, which include Sens. Ty Masterson (R-Andover), Gene Suellentrop (R-Wichita), Mary Pilcher-Cook (R-Shawnee) and Senate President Susan Wagle (R-Wichita), did not respond to requests for comment.
Gov. Laura Kelly’s office did not comment on the resolution beyond saying in an email that Kelly does not have a role in resolutions and therefore could not veto it.
Jonathan Willmoth, a Kansas City-based immigration attorney, said concerns that individuals in the United States illegally would not respond to the Census were valid.
“We see people who are very reluctant to go to courts, make reports to the police, seek benefits they may be eligible for — all because of their unlawful status,” he said. “I think it’s entirely reasonable to believe that those same people will not accurately report on the Census if they are asked about immigration status.”
The Supreme Court, which typically holds a 5-4 conservative majority, appears poised to allow President Trump’s administration to ask individuals for their citizenship status on the Census. During oral arguments earlier this month, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh appeared in favor of the question, and were not met with much opposition from the other conservatives on the bench.
Should the Kansas Senate pass the resolution Wednesday, copies are set to be sent to Trump, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab, each member of Kansas’ Congressional delegation, and the director of the U.S. Census Bureau.
Conner Mitchell is a University of Kansas senior from Newton, Kansas, majoring in journalism and political science.