U.S. bishops welcome Biden’s order not to release census citizenship data

The leaders of two U.S. bishops’ committees applauded President Joe Biden’s executive order reversing a policy of the previous administration that excluded unauthorized immigrants from the census count.

“We welcome this return to more than a century of American precedent that ensures all residents will be counted and included in the census and apportionment,” said Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Auxiliary Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville of Washington, chairman of the Committee on Migration.

“This return to our previous policy reflects the inalienable truth that all people matter and are imbued with human dignity,” they said in a joint statement Jan. 22.

Biden’s census order — among several that he signed his first day in office — reversed two of President Donald Trump’s directives related to the 2020 census.

The former administration had sought to determine the citizenship status of every U.S. resident through administrative records and also planned to exclude those in the U.S. illegally from being counted in the process of apportioning state congressional seats.

The former policy also would have impacted the allocation of federal appropriations funds for programs around the country.

Two days after Biden’s order was signed, the Census Bureau said 2020 census data would not include information on citizenship or immigration status at any level.

The bishops’ statement pointed out that the process of counting people for purposes of apportioning seats in the U.S. House of Representatives “has not always been free of injustice,” but it said Biden’s executive order “stands as a testament to the indisputable reality that immigration status does not negate the inherent value of a human life, nor should it undermine any person’s ability to contribute to the growth and well-being of our nation.”

Church leaders have been speaking up against Trump’s census policies since last year when they were first announced and when a census case came to the Supreme Court last fall.

Weeks after oral arguments in Trump v. New York, the court failed to give a definitive ruling on it, saying the case was “riddled with contingencies and speculation that impede judicial review.”

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