Four states have begun sharing driver's license information with the U.S. Census Bureau, according to a report by NPR. That information is being used by the bureau to determine the balance of citizens and non-citizens in every voting district.
The scheme seems to be an attempt by the Trump administration to get around a U.S. Supreme Court decision that barred 2020 census forms from including a citizenship question. Critics worried such a question would scare unauthorized immigrants out of submitting the census for fear the information would be directly used to conduct deportations. Census data helps determine how much representation cities and states get in elections.
The administration is choosing to fight these types of battles while the coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the country, probably because it thinks it can just make that problem go away by hiding data on the disaster from the public.
The citizenship question workaround — License sharing won't directly out non-citizens in any of the participating states — including Iowa, Nebraska, South Carolina, and South Dakota. None of them allow unauthorized immigrants to obtain licenses. But the license data could be compared against total population numbers from the census to determine the citizenship status of everyone in the U.S. The Trump administration may try to redraw districts based on citizen numbers only, leaving non-citizens underrepresented in politics. Non-citizen residents may want to avoid responding to the census now based on the license scheme. Four out of ten homes nationwide haven't yet participated.
Non-citizen residents are often already scared out of getting licenses, and this type of behavior will likely push them further into the shadows of the country. Without a valid form of government ID, access to other services like library memberships is also limited. Leaving immigrants out of the economy is not a good idea considering it's been demonstrated time and time again that immigration drives economic growth. That's more important than ever today, but the administration has used the pandemic as cover to halt immigration of skilled workers and sought to push foreign students out before walking that back.
States' rights? Not always — The Trump administration is all about states' rights to govern independently until it comes to red meat for the base. The federal government has been pushing in other ways to collect citizenship data from states. Back in February, the Department of Homeland Security froze enrollment in the Global Entry program for New Yorkers because the state refused to check the immigration status on applicant's driver's licenses. New York allows non-citizens to obtain driver's licenses.