The Trump administration has decided to print the 2020 census forms without including the question that asked people to state their citizenship status. The Trump administration and Republicans had wanted this question despite fears being raised that this would result in non-citizens being afraid to take part in the census and not filling the forms, thus affecting the many ways in which resources are allocated to states and localities, including the number of congressional seats in each state, that depend only on the number of people that are there, not on the number of citizens. Of course, this likely was exactly what the Trump administration wanted to achieve, though they created some kind of cockamamie rationale for its inclusion.
The case went all the way to the US Supreme Court that ruled on it last week. In a 5-4 decision, the justices ruled that the reasons given by the government for inclusion of the question were contrived and without merit. The court did not say that the question was unconstitutional but that if the government wanted to include it, they had to come up with a better reason and present it again to the court.
The ruling by Chief Justice John Roberts questioned the rationale for the administration’s effort, just as challenging states and immigrant rights groups have done.
“The evidence tells a story that does not match the explanation (Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross) gave for his decision,” Roberts wrote. “The sole stated reason seems to have been contrived.”
In a complex decision with several dissents and concurrences, the court’s four liberal justices said they would have struck down the citizenship question outright, while the court’s four other conservative justices said it should have been upheld.
Opponents contended that adding the question was an effort to scare noncitizens into avoiding the census. That in turn would require expanding largely Democratic congressional districts, potentially reducing their overall number. It could cost California, Texas, Florida, New York, Illinois and Arizona seats in Congress.
The catch was that the census forms faced a publication deadline of this week in order to get the census done in time. Trump went so far as to suggest delaying the census to do that, which would have raised other constitutional issues. But today, we learn that the government backed down and started printing the forms without the citizenship question, making the whole issue moot, at least until the 2030 census comes around
Commerce Secretary statement on census with no citizenship question. pic.twitter.com/tPEJJhHN2s
— Kelly O'Donnell (@KellyO) July 2, 2019
You can expect the right-wing outrage machine to go into overdrive. They will likely target chief justice John Roberts for their ire since he joined with the four liberal justices in issuing the ruling that effectively killed the question.
The ACLU put out a video on why the citizenship question was bad.
We're headed to the Supreme Court next week to protect the 2020 census.
— ACLU (@ACLU) April 17, 2019