Trump on track for Supreme Court victory on census citizenship question


Trump on track for Supreme Court victory on census citizenship question
U.S. President Donald Trump talks to reporters as he departs for travel to Texas from the White House in Washington, U.S., April 10, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

The U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative majority on Tuesday appeared inclined to hand President Donald Trump a victory on his administration’s plan to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, a move opponents call a Republican effort to deter immigrants from taking part.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative majority on Tuesday appeared inclined to hand President Donald Trump a victory on his administration’s plan to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, a move opponents call a Republican effort to deter immigrants from taking part.

Kavanaugh cited other countries that ask a citizenship question as part of their censuses.

“It’s a very common question internationally,” Kavanaugh said.

Gorsuch and fellow conservative Justice Samuel Alito both challenged evidence that asking about citizenship could cause census response rates to decline, as the challengers contend. Gorsuch noted that “it’s not like this question is improper to ask.”

Trump has pursued hardline immigration policies. The Supreme Court already has handed him some major victories, including last year allowing his travel ban targeting people from several Muslim-majority countries.

The case comes in a pair of lawsuits by a group of states and localities led by New York state, and a coalition of immigrant rights groups challenging the legality of the question. The census forms are due to be printed in the coming months.

‘A contrived one’

Liberal justices noted evidence presented in the case from the Census Bureau’s own experts that showed the citizenship question would lead to a population undercount, and, contrary to the administration’s stated goal, less accurate citizenship data.

They also appeared skeptical about the administration’s stated justification regarding the Voting Rights Act.

“You can’t read the record without sensing this need is a contrived one,” Justice Elena Kagan said.

U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco, arguing on behalf of the administration, said Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, whose department includes the Census Bureau, acted within his discretion in deciding to add the citizenship question.

“It boils down to whether the secretary’s judgment is a reasonable one,” Francisco said.

Business groups and corporations such as Lyft, Inc, Box, Inc, Levi Strauss & Co and Uber Technologies Inc also opposed the citizenship question, saying it would compromise census data that they use to make decisions including where to put new locations and how to market products.

Manhattan-based U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman on Jan. 15 ruled that the Commerce Department’s decision to add the question violated a federal law called the Administrative Procedure Act. Federal judges in Maryland and California also prohibited the question’s inclusion in subsequent rulings, saying it would violate the Constitution’s mandate to enumerate the population every 10 years.

In November, when the Supreme Court allowed the trial before Furman to proceed, three of the court’s conservative justices – Gorsuch, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito – said they would have blocked it, indicating they may be sympathetic to the administration’s legal arguments.

Furman found that Ross concealed his true motives for his March 2018 decision to add the question.

The Census Bureau itself estimated that households corresponding to 6.5 million people would not respond to the census if the citizenship question is asked, leading to less accurate citizenship data.

Citizenship has not been asked of all households since the 1950 census. It has featured since then on questionnaires sent to a smaller subset of the population. While only U.S. citizens can vote, non-citizens comprise an estimated 7 percent of the population.

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