Who is counted and who will count? Two questions still not entirely answerable as we head toward the federally mandated 2020 U.S. census. As the official U.S. Census website explains, the goal of the U.S. census is “to count everyone once, only once, and in the right place.” It’s vitally important that the numbers be accurate because the final tally will determine how many Congressional lawmakers represent each state, as well as how many millions of federal dollars each state receives. But, with about a year to go before the massive human audit kicks off, the U.S. Census Bureau is grappling with internal and external issues which could threaten the integrity of the count.

First of all, it appears the census process itself has been underfunded. Critics say the amount set aside for systems and operations is far less than the Census Bureau requested — not enough to support the first-time online data collection and not enough to pay for the one-time hiring of temporary workers who will conduct the traditional door-to-door collection. And then there is the controversy surrounding the citizenship question, the new question added to the 2020 questionnaire, which asks every American household to identify the U.S. citizens in the family. When Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross added the question last year, he said the Justice Department told him it was needed to shore up parts of the Voting Rights Act. But recent documents, including damning emails from Secretary Ross, reveal otherwise: They show Trump administration advisors helped him push through the question. Immediately, civil rights groups, mayors and states' attorneys general joined together to legally block the addition of the question. In January, U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman in New York declared the citizenship question unconstitutional. And just weeks ago, another federal judge, U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg, was even more pointed in his ruling, rejecting the legitimacy of the question. Judge Seeborg publicly castigated Secretary Wilbur Ross, whom he said led a “cynical search to find some reason, any reason” to justify the citizenship question. And the judge agreed with a coalition of plaintiffs that the question would have a chilling effect on the participation of immigrants, especially Latinos who might be afraid to take part in the census.

Last year, then Congressional candidate Ayanna Pressley was more blunt. The Trump administration, Pressley warned, was using the citizenship question to target “progressive, immigrant-rich states” — states with constituencies least likely to be a part of his political base.

Counting every person means every person, including those who are undocumented. The citizenship question is a virtual guarantee of an undercount in immigrant and minority households. Whether or not this sham of a question is removed from the 2020 census is now up to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has agreed to hear arguments against it brought by 18 states, several cities and civil rights groups. The arguments are set for later this month with a quick ruling expected in June. In the meantime, I continue to ponder what it means that people obsessed with the concept of citizenship are more than willing to trample on the real-world rights of American citizens.