U.S. Rep. John Carter — a Round Rock Republican who was a longtime judge prior to his election to Congress — says he never second guesses a court.
That even applies to the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision to pause the Trump administration’s plan to include a citizenship question in the 2020 census.
“The way I understand it, it still could happen,” Carter told the Telegram on Monday — two days before President Donald Trump tweeted that he would press forward with the citizenship question. “Whether that’s going to be jamming the court a little bit — I don’t really recommend that.”
Carter discussed the 2020 Census, the migrant crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border and other topics in a wide-ranging, nearly hour-long interview with the Telegram this past week.
“I think what the court was trying to do was avoid a last-minute decision,” said Carter, who was judge of the 277th District Court in Williamson County for more than two decades. “If they said base our numbers on citizenship rather than people, I think that would be unconstitutional. If you look it up, it does not say, ‘You shall count the citizens.’ It says, ‘You shall count the people.’”
The U.S. Constitution calls for a census based on “the whole number of persons in each State.”
The Supreme Court found the administration had used “contrived” reasoning for including the citizenship question in the census.
The last time a citizenship question was on the entire census was in 1950, NPR reported in March 2018. Since 1970, the Census Bureau has sent out two questionnaires — a short-form survey to collect basic population information and a long-form one with more detailed questions, including a citizenship question. The shorter document has gone to most American households.
In the last census in 2010, there was no long form, NPR reported. It was replaced with the annual American Community Survey.
The Supreme Court, Carter said, avoided a constitutional crisis with its 5-4 decision.
If the citizenship question is ultimately included in next year’s census, it could mean an undercount of Texas, the Texas Tribune reported. That would mean the communities in the Lone Star State could lose billions of federal dollars for health care assistance and transportation projects.
Additionally, the Tribune reported that projections have shown that an undercount could cost Texas at least one of the three congressional seats it was expected to gain.
‘A crisis of monumental proportions’
Carter described the surge of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border as “a crisis of monumental proportions.”
Processing facilities are overwhelmed with immigrants from Latin America. More than 144,000 migrants were apprehended or denied entry to the country in May, according to the Tribune. About half of those people were adults with children and 8 percent were unaccompanied minors.
That is an “unbelievable number,” the congressman said.
Despite mandates that state people should not stay in a processing center for more than 72 hours, people are detained for days and weeks, according to the Tribune.
This is a twofold crisis, Carter said. It is a crisis for those crossing the border and for Border Patrol agents who are processing these thousands of people, he said.
The Mexican government has promised to send 6,000 National Guard soldiers to enforce its southern border to stamp the flow of migrants, according to CNN. That has helped slow down the crisis on the United States’ southern border, the congressman said.
Charitable Donations Freedom Act
Despite the overcrowding of facilities and lack of supplies to care for immigrants in processing centers, Border Patrol has said it cannot accept supply donations.
That may change if Congress approves a bill called the Charitable Donations Freedom Act by U.S. Rep. Chip Roy, R-Austin.
The measure amends the Antideficiency Act — which mandates that the government cannot spend any money or accept donations other than what Congress has allocated — to allow for the donation of goods, the Tribune reported.
Carter had not yet read the bill, but said he would look at it.
“It’s not a bad idea,” Carter said. “It fits the American attitude of taking care of other people, and we are famous for that. It separates us from the rest of the world. Unfortunately, that’s one of those things you’ve got to check the statutes and see who can and can’t take gifts — even if it’s gifts for other people.”
‘I plan to win’
Eight months have passed since Carter narrowly held onto his seat for a ninth term. He defeated Democrat MJ Hegar — who is now seeking to oust U.S. Sen. John Cornyn — 51.5 percent to 48.5 percent.
The 77-year-old is going for a 10th term in next year’s election.
“I plan to win,” he said.
Texas’ 31st Congressional District covers Bell and Williamson counties. Hegar won Williamson County — a rapidly changing are that is becoming purple and a political battleground — 49.9 percent to Carter’s 48.3 percent.
Carter would not be in office right now if it were not for Bell County. He won this county 56.8 percent to the Air Force veteran’s 41.8 percent.
“I love Bell County,” he said with a smile.
“I won this area. Without it, I wouldn’t have survived if it hadn’t been for it,” Carter said later in the interview. “(Hegar) spent $10 million, and I’ve never seen $10 million in my entire political career and don’t expect to see $10 million (again).”
‘I’m a vulnerable district’
National Republicans identified District 31 as one of the eight most vulnerable in the country. The National Republican Congressional Committee added Carter’s district to its “Patriot Program.” Congressmen in this effort will receive additional staff and support.
“Finally,” Carter said of the NRCC throwing its support to him in 2020. “They didn’t last time.”
As national Republicans circle the wagons around its vulnerable districts, Democrats also plan to invest resources in District 31 and others like it to flip them.
Already 10 candidates — three Republicans and seven Democrats — are seeking to oust Carter next year.
The Democrats are Christine Eady Mann, who lost to Hegar in a runoff last year; Omar Kadir; Jeremiah Landin; Jon Curtis; Murray Holcomb; Donna Imam; and Eric Hanke.
“They’re looking for one,” Carter said of the Democratic Party seeking a candidate with the political caliber similar to Hegar.
Carter’s GOP challengers are John Richard Bohlin, Abhiram Garapati and Michael Howard Williams.
“Yeah, I’m a vulnerable district. That’s not good,” Carter said. “You don’t want to be a vulnerable district. You want to be a safe district.”