After an eventful Fourth of July ceremony in Washington D.C., the Trump administration has to decide whether or not the citizenship question is worth an executive action that would undermine the Supreme Court.

Despite the Supreme Court ruling on a question of United States citizenship being added to the 2020 census, Donald Trump is considering an executive order to override the Supreme Court decision. The Supreme Court is certainly not perfect, but overriding their decisions can have perilous consequences in this instance. This type of override has been used with success in the past.  

For example, Abraham Lincoln suspended the constitution during the United States Civil War which allowed him to abolish slavery. Yet, this potential decision of Trump’s is markedly different and not beneficial to the country as a whole.

The Supreme Court did say that the Trump administration needs a clearer justification for asking the citizenship question than the one provided in court. The provided explanation made a conservative Supreme Court dismiss the idea of putting the citizenship question on the census. Trump’s rhetoric about South American immigrants, Trump’s threats to increase ICE raids and checkpoints in major United States cities, and the use of private companies to run immigrant detention centers indicate the goal of the United States government to find and deport anyone they can deem an illegal immigrant. 

However, the reasons that people do not choose a legal form of migration are complex. For example, during the Guatemalan Genocide and Civil War, if anyone tried to go to the government to leave the country, they were automatically targeted and the only way for people to be free from danger was to flee and find safety in another country. This is the only recourse for people who cannot trust their own government.  In this situation, the goal of the current administration is deportation regardless of the status of asylum, refugee status, or attempts to flee unsafe situations out of desperation. What the goal should be is an effective immigration strategy that does not criminalize asylum seekers or those desiring citizenship.

Asking the citizenship question on a census could do one of two things: it could get an accurate headcount of United States citizens or it could alert the United States Government to anyone who is not in this country legally and get a more accurate way to start the ICE raids on US communities. Anyone in the country who ever crossed illegally is still a criminal in the eyes of the current administration, regardless of the reason. 

This is not a call for open borders, but a warning about what overturning this particular Supreme Court decision could mean for millions of men, women, and children living on US soil. Often, it is the people who occupy the lowest economic class of any society that ultimately do the most for that society especially with regard to manual labor with inadequate compensation. Too often, this applies to refugees, asylum seekers, and immigrants. 

However, the larger concern is a President that can use executive power to undermine the legal system of The United States, no matter which way it leans politically, to achieve an agenda that endangers the lives and livelihood of millions of people who generally just want to raise their families in this country.

Supreme Court v Donald Trump

Squabbles between political parties and different branches of the government are not an anomaly, especially over controversial issues. Under Trump’s administration alone, there was the loss of DACA protections, a plan to undo the protections of family members of active duty military immigrants, the building of private detention centers with horrendous conditions, and the passage of a budget that included funds to improve the US-Mexico border wall. Instead of giving foreign aid, Trump decided that the best way to deal with illegal immigration is to stop immigration altogether. He is not being sneaky about it either, it is a blatant uprooting of the values of the United States set up in the constitution and reinforced by the Supreme Court in this decision. 

That leaves the United States with a sitting President who undermines an entire branch of justice that keeps the United States functioning in step with democracy. This citizenship question has to do with the action on the policy of an administration that moves to target desperate people. The fact that a sitting president can ignore the Supreme Court to achieve this end is problematic. Every problem that the Supreme Court investigates is of paramount importance to our democracy and its values. Unless a better system presents itself, one that would take years to build, this current system based on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights is what the United States government must function under.

Perhaps Trump’s goal in undermining the system is to signal that the United States needs a firm and radical change of its immigration policy. It is certainly not something that will or can be done overnight or should be done with the stroke of a pen that could have disastrous ramifications. Donald Trump’s loopholes call to question the future of the checks and balances system of democracy in the United States created by the different branches of the federal government. 

Not all the people Trump is targeting have the protections of citizenship and this country has an inconsistent history of protecting people who experience trauma in their own countries. However, this is far beyond the issue of democracy, it is a humanitarian issue which calls for the United States to act responsibly in order to protect immigrants currently seeking or trying to seek refuge in this country, something that is not happening under the Trump administration.  The decision of the Supreme Court should be honored by this President who should devote his time and energy to more fruitful endeavors such as proposing an immigration policy that allows for our country to continue to provide for those in need of a new home.

Margaret Valenti

Margaret Valenti is the Editor of Generation Z Voice at The Pavlovic Today.