Dear Commons Community,
[See note at the end of the posting.]
Last week, the US Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration had failed to adequately explain the necessity for a citizenship question on the 2020 census and sent the case back to a lower court. The Trump administration claimed the query was necessary to better enforce the Voting Rights Act.
President Trump initially said he had instructed government lawyers to look into delaying the census. But yesterday, the administration officially announced there would not be a question about citizenship on the 2020 census.
“We can confirm that the decision has been made to print the 2020 Decennial Census questionnaire without a citizenship question, and that the printer has been instructed to begin the printing process,” Kate Bailey, a Justice Department attorney, wrote to lawyers for the plaintiffs who had challenged the addition of the question.
In response, President Donald Trump stated yesterday
“A very sad time for America when the Supreme Court of the United States won’t allow a question of ‘Is this person a Citizen of the United States?’ to be asked on the census!” He added that he had asked his officials to “do whatever is necessary” to bring the citizenship question to a “successful conclusion” in the future.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who oversees the U.S. Census Bureau, said he had decided to add the citizenship question in 2018 against the advisement of other bureau officials. The move prompted outcry from immigrant and civil rights groups who argued that adding the question could lead to underreporting among minority and immigrant populations, with potentially harmful consequences.
Ross also said the census forms had gone to the printer without the addition of a citizenship question but noted that he “strongly” disagreed with the Supreme Court’s ruling.
A small but significant victory for immigrant rights and the electoral process.
One day after pledging that the 2020 census would not ask respondents about their citizenship (as stated above), Justice Department officials reversed course on Wednesday and said they were hunting for a way to restore the question on orders from President Trump.
The contentious issue of whether next year’s all-important head count would include a citizenship question appeared to be settled — until the president began vowing on Twitter on Wednesday that the administration was “absolutely moving forward” with plans, despite logistical and legal barriers.
Mr. Trump’s comments prompted a chaotic chain of events, with senior census planners closeted in emergency meetings and Justice Department representatives summoned to a phone conference with a federal judge in Maryland.