Supreme Court Blocks Trump Administration From Adding Citizenship Question to 2020 Census

The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that the Trump administration cannot add a citizenship question to the 2020 census and sent the case back to lower court. The Justices determined the Department of Commerce did not provide a sufficient explanation of why the question should be added.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross sought to incorporate the citizenship question into the census, even though there was evidence that it wasn’t a good idea.

Related Story: Census Citizenship Question Creates Advantage for ‘Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites’: Report

States, including New York, sued the Trump administration, arguing that adding the question would jeopardize the essential information the U.S. government collects. Manhattan-based U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman ruled on Jan. 15 that Ross’ decision to add the question violated a federal law called the Administrative Procedure Act.

The Court made its ruling in the case — Department of Commerce v. New York. The opinion, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, partially upheld Furman’s decision against the census question. The Court’s decision is surprising because of its conservative majority. The expectation was that the Justices would agree with the Trump administration. 

“We are pleased with the Supreme Court’s decision today,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement. “This one question could have caused a substantial undercount, particularly of noncitizens and Latinos.

“Thanks to the Court, the census will remain a tool for delivering on our government’s promise of fairness and equity, and states, like New York, will not be shortchanged out of critical resources or political representation.”

James also cautioned that “many threats continue to lie ahead from the Trump Administration and we will not stop fighting.”

During a hearing in March, before the House Oversight Committee, Wilbur Ross was under fire by Democrats.

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who questioned Ross in the seventh hour of the hearing, made clear that he failed to consult with the U.S. Census Bureau experts. Ross received guidance from Kris Kobach.

Ocasio-Cortez referred to a July 2017 email from Kobach, then-Kansas secretary of state who was well-known for voter suppression, to Ross.

“It’s all there in black and white,” she said.

The email showed that Kobach was in favor of adding the citizenship question.

Ocasio-Cortez also said that Ross violated the U.S. Census Act by not submitting a report on the suggested change to Congress.

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