The OMB’s decision on whether to implement Barack Hussein Obama’s plan to change the census to create a Middle Eastern-North African racial category and other government surveys is only part of the story. While the Obama Census Bureau has endorsed these changes for the 2020 census, it will not make its final recommendations until April. The Congress has the final say in approving the final wording of census questions.
By Jay O’Callaghan l April 27, 2017
Faith Forward’s MENA supporters, Dr. Michael W. Watson, Imam Suleiman and Rabbi Nancy Kasten speak at a vigil for Muslim refugees on January 30 in Dallas. Roger Mallison/Tribune News Service
You have until April 30th to comment on Obama’s controversial proposal to add a Middle Eastern North African (MENA) racial category to the 2020 census. The Census Bureau falls under the U.S. Department of Commerce.
I first wrote about MENA for this publication in May of 2015 explaining how MENA fit Obama’s style of divisive politics. With Census data vital information in determining the drawing of congressional districts, providing foreign language election ballots and billions of dollars in taxpayer federal aid for specially designated interest groups this issue now becomes a critical cog in the wheel that will help to determine America’s future and whether we as a nation maintain our cultural values.
As Mike Gonzalez of the Heritage Foundation points out, “this poison pill was left behind by the Obama administration in its last few days in office. On Sept. 30, an interagency group proposed to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) two changes that would create new ethnic cleavages and work to preserve existing ones. Now the Trump administration is asking Americans to comment on whether we really want to do this by commenting here” at the OMB website.
The MENA proposal “would mean that Americans and U.S. residents of Middle East and North African origin would now be reclassified as a single and unified minority group” representing countries stretching from Morocco to Iran. The largely geographical category could encompass many wide ranging and different groups including “Arab-Americans whose families have been here for generations, including such figures as actress Marlo Thomas; Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif.; and activist Ralph Nader.” This majority white, Christian and upper middle income group would be combined with high income Muslim refugees from the Shah’s Iran, Moroccans, Algerians, Kurds, and “at one time even Israelis, though the OMB has desisted from that after protests.”
“The second proposal,” adds Gonzalez “would effectively mean that people of Latin American or Iberian origins would no longer be able to declare whether they are also black, white, or “some other race.” This change would practically make “Hispanic” their only racial identifier.”
But the real purpose behind these changes is to further divide Americans into specially designed racial groups instead of “check the ‘white’ box” as they once did when they fully assimilated. Gonzalez points to a government study that “makes clear, the growing number of Americans of Spanish or Portuguese ancestry who are checking the “white” box—more than 29 million out of 56 million in the 2010 Census—would be nudged away from doing so.”
Supporters like Samer Khalaf, the president of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), believe “the lack of the MENA category inevitably leads to the marginalization of his community.” They point out that they cannot have Arab language ballots in the U.S. because “election laws dictate that if a language other than English is widely spoken in an area, it must be represented on ballot papers.” Khalaf adds, “that census inclusion would give Arab Americans “critical data” to document discrimination and enforce civil rights issues.”
Ironically, it was actually early Arab immigrants who fought for and earned the right to be designated as white in the census. According to arabamerica.com, “George Dow, a Syrian immigrant, sued the federal government for turning down his request for naturalization. After two appeals, he secured a pronouncement from a federal judge in 1915 that Syrians could be classified as white.”
The U.S. Census “already provides periodic estimates on the number of Arab Americans, based on ancestry data. But the approach leads to drastic undercounting, according to the Arab American Institute (AAI), a Washington-based think-tank. In 2015, AAI estimated the number of Arabs in the United States to be 3.7 million, more than twice the number calculated by the federal government.”
Some Arab activists fear that census data on them “may be misused by the government to crack down on civil rights.” Jaber, who is a member of the Census National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic and Other Populations, “has been a fervent advocate of Arab representation on the census. Nonetheless, he acknowledged that the study’s data could be utilized to spy on the community.”
He points out that “federal laws prohibit sharing the information of individual respondents with other government agencies, but added that privacy concerns are warranted, especially under the current political climate. we need to measure this risk, and measure the long-term benefits for our community… It’s a risk that we have to take in order to be included.”
The U.S. census has become increasingly politicized as it asks questions which seem designed to divide Americans into special interest groups, many of which one political party [Democrats] relies upon for overwhelming support. What was once a simple head count on the number of residents has become a massive undertaking to determine how hundreds of billions of dollars in government funds will be distributed.
“We like to say that the Census is about two simple things: money and power,” explains Rosalind Gold, senior director of policy, research and advocacy for the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, or NALEO, Educational Fund.
The OMB’s decision on whether to implement Obama’s plan to change the census and other government surveys is only part of the story. While the Obama Census Bureau has endorsed these changes for the 2020 census, it will not make its final recommendations until next April. But there’s no time to waste, American’s have only until Sunday, April 30 to comment here. The Congress has the final say in approving the final wording of census questions.
Jay O’Callaghan has worked extensively with issues involving the U.S. Census Bureau including serving as a professional staff member for the House Government Reform Census Subcommittee, as a senior legislative analyst for the Florida House of Representatives Redistricting Committee and for two U.S. House members. He is also a contributor to SFPPR News & Analysis, of the Conservative-Online-Journalism center at the Washington-based Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research