A Questionable Move Between South Dakota’s Government and Census Bureau Puts Immigrants at Risk

Census South Dakota BELatina Latinx
Photo Credit TED S. WARREN AP

The worst suspicions of the immigrant community and its advocates have become a reality: The government uses information from agencies to corroborate the citizenship status of millions of citizens.

According to NPR, the Trump administration has been accumulating driver’s license information in states like South Dakota thanks to an agreement signed in April by the state’s Secretary of Public Safety that allows for the sharing of driver’s license and state identification card information with the U.S. Census Bureau.

The media, which had access to a copy of the State Department of Public Safety’s memorandum of understanding, claims that this is an alternative measure taken by the government after its failure to incorporate the citizenship question into the 2020 Census.

South Dakota is following in the footsteps of Nebraska, which last year became the first state to agree to transfer data from its driver’s license and state identification records to the office.

“South Dakota’s Driver Licensing program is authorized to share information for use by any government agency in carrying out its functions. Information was provided at the request of the U.S. Census Bureau to carry out its function,” South Dakota Department of Public Safety spokesperson Tony Mangan told NPR.

While the agreements of both states are not supposed to share information on undocumented immigrants, citizenship information is exactly what the government sought through the Census to redraw the distribution of federal funds in the national territories.

According to the media, and quoting a GOP redistricting strategist, using that kind of information to exclude U.S. citizens under 18 and non-citizens — both those lawfully and unlawfully in the country — when redrawing districts would be “advantageous to Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites.”

It is an open question whether redrawing voting maps based on the number of citizens old enough to vote instead of all residents, including children, is legal. That issue may be tested in the courts as early as next year, when the Census Bureau plans to release block-level citizenship data to the states by July 31, 2021, James Whitehorne, the head of the Census Bureau’s redistricting and voting rights data office, confirmed in April.

With information from NPR.