3 more states share license data for citizenship efforts

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FILE - Protesters hold banners on the steps of the South Dakota Capitol in Pierre in a Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020 file photo.Iowa, South Carolina and South Dakota recently joined Nebraska in agreeing to share driver's license information with the U.S. Census Bureau to help the Trump administration with the controversial task of figuring out the citizenship status of every U.S. resident. (AP Photo/Stephen Groves)

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Iowa, South Carolina and South Dakota have now joined Nebraska in agreeing to share state driver's license information with the U.S. Census Bureau to help the Trump administration to determine the citizenship status of every U.S. resident.

Until recently, Nebraska had been the sole state to sign an agreement with the Census Bureau to share the information. President Donald Trump ordered the Census Bureau last year to gather citizenship data from the administrative records of federal and state agencies after the U.S. Supreme Court blocked his administration's effort to place a citizenship question on the 2020 census questionnaire.

The overwhelming majority of states have refused to share information about driver's licenses and ID cards. The governors of the four cooperating states are Republicans. Their cooperation was first reported by NPR.

Opponents of gathering the citizenship data worry it will be used by states and local governments to redraw legislative boundaries using only U.S. citizens instead of the entire population. Doing so would be advantageous to Republicans and non-Hispanic whites, according to opponents.

Citizenship information in motor vehicle agencies is typically unreliable given that there is no reason for lawful residents to notify motor vehicle agencies when they become citizens, said Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

MALDEF is one of several civil rights groups challenging Trump's order in federal court in Maryland.

“Their task is to create a nationwide data base, so having three relatively small states provide them records doesn’t get them very far as to what they want to do. They need a nationwide database,” Saenz said. “I don’t know what it shows other than if I were in one of those states, I would be angry that the state is offering up my information without my permission.”

The Department of Commerce, which oversees the Census Bureau, says it has enough administrative records to determine the citizenship of almost 90% of the U.S. population, and records collected for the order would only fill in the remaining gaps