To the Editor: Rebuts Porter letter

Mr. Porter argued in a recent letter to the editor that there is no historical precedent for excluding the citizenship question on the census form. It is a complicated question. Note, however, that the first three censuses asked no questions about national origins or citizenship. In the modern era, there have been two surveys, one that went to all households and did not usually ask a citizenship question. A long form went to a much smaller percentage and often asked about citizenship. As I understand it, there is still a possibility that the citizenship question can be asked on the American Community Survey questionnaire. A full discussion of this can be found on factcheck.com.

The thing that most discourages me is the fact that Mr. Porter cites the Constitution to indicate that it is required in this founding document but ignores its placement in Article I. That article defines Congress’s organization, duties and powers. He ignores the statement he quotes that states that the census be conducted “in such a manner as they shall by Law direct.” Of the three branches of government, Congress is assigned to write the law. In a government designed to have checks and balances, what right does the president to direct the inclusion of a census question?

When the Constitution was being considered, the critics of it had two main concerns. First there was no bill of rights and second they feared that the president had too much power. Trying to enact law by executive order really gives substance to that fear. This is not a partisan criticism because presidents of both parties have exceeded their constitutional authority in order to establish policy.

Darrel R. Rodgers

Story First Published: 2019-08-02