Census Won’t Have Citizenship Question

The Trump Administration has officially conceded to the rule of law.

After the Supreme Court’s ruling last week that the Commerce Secretary’s pretext for including a citizenship question on the Census a transparent lie, President Trump signaled via Twitter that he might delay the survey or otherwise find a way to include it. Yesterday evening, though, the Census Bureau raised the truce flag.

After two years of controversy and litigation, the Justice Department on Tuesday confirmed that the Trump administration will abandon its effort to add a question on citizenship to the looming 2020 decennial census.

Following last week’s Supreme Court ruling blocking—at least temporarily—the plan as ill-explained, news reports broke that the Justice Department had notified legal challengers of the decision one day after the deadline for launching the printing process that had been set months ago by Census Bureau professionals.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, in a statement provided to Government Executive, said “I respect the Supreme Court but strongly disagree with its ruling regarding my decision to reinstate a citizenship question on the 2020 Census. The Census Bureau has started the process of printing the decennial questionnaires without the question. My focus, and that of the Bureau and the entire department is to conduct a complete and accurate census.”

Trump officials had justified the addition of the question originally as a tool requested by Justice to aid in enforcing the Voting Rights Act. But critics in the civil rights and statistical community, and many Democratic lawmakers concerned about voter district reapportionment in 2021, blasted the proposal as a way to depress response rates and reduce Latino voter impact, which they assume aids Democrats.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., chairman of the Oversight and Reform Committee, immediately issued a statement saying he was “encouraged that administration officials had dropped President Trump’s unconstitutional plan to postpone the Census just because he lost the Supreme Court case. The Trump Administration put our country through more than a year of wasted time and squandered resources—all in the service of an illegal attempt to add a discriminatory question based on a pretext. Now they need to direct all their attention to the nuts and bolts of putting on the Census next year. The Census Bureau has a responsibility under the Constitution to get an accurate count.”
Cummings’ panel is still seeking Census and Justice documents on how the proposal was developed.

Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference Education Fund, said, “The people have spoken, the courts have spoken, and finally, the Trump administration has conceded—there will be no 2020 Census citizenship question. This is a victory for all those who fought so hard against this partisan ploy to weaponize the census and rig our democracy. Now we double down on the work to ensure a fair and accurate count.”

Government Executive, “Census Will Print 2020 Survey Without Citizenship Question

That it’s newsworthy that the Executive branch of government is going to comply with the decision of the Supreme Court is a rather sad commentary of where our national politics stand. But I fully expected the Administration to delay printing the survey for several months in order to manufacture a new, more plausible pretext for including the question.

As with so many of Trump’s ill-advised, mean-spirited initiatives, including this question on the Census was obviously well within his power. That the professionals at the Census Bureau cautioned that it would surely diminish the participation of Latinos and thus thwart the fundamental purpose of the census made it bad policy; it didn’t make it illegal. But even decisions within the purview of the President or his cabinet secretaries have to comply with legal requirements, notably the Administrative Procedures Act. They had more than enough time to staff this properly, issue a rationale that wasn’t a transparent lie, and secure five or more votes on the Supreme Court vindicating his prerogative. Instead, he suffered another embarrassing defeat.

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, Supreme Court, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. MarkedMan says:

    It should never be forgotten that four out of five Republican Justices voted to allow.

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  2. Teve says:

    emptywheel

    @emptywheel
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    Let’s not lose sight of the fact that multiple Trump officials lied under oath about that census question, and should face justice for it.

    2:14 PM – 2 Jul 2019

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  3. Teve says:

    @MarkedMan: 4 out of 5 justices insisted they be allowed to pretend obvious lies are the truth.

    I wish I could say that surprised me, but they’re modern conservatives.

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  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    My focus, and that of the Bureau and the entire department is to conduct a complete and accurate census.”

    When pigs fly. They are currently working on alternate ways to rat fuck the census. You know this, I know this, anyone with half a functioning brain knows this.

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  5. Kathy says:

    I’ll repeat what I said yesterday: For now.

    Dennison is not one to let go of his grievance, and for him any disagreement is a personal affront. If he lets this one go, it will be because he finds some other thing to occupy whatever he uses for a mind. Just as likely he’ll keep harping on it, complaining about the unfairness of judicial review, etc. etc.

    That it’s newsworthy that the Executive branch of government is going to comply with the decision of the Supreme Court

    Toddlers have a lousy compliance record, don’t they?

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  6. MarkedMan says:

    The Republican Party has essentially adopted an apartheid mentality, wherein anything is justified to keep “the right people” in power. This was inevitable given both demographics and, more importantly, the decision by those in power to adapt the Southern Strategy. There was a flurry a decade or so ago when some party officials questioned whether this could be sustained any longer and started an outreach to hispanics, but this was doomed to failure. Trump finally tore off the tattered veil of pretend respectability and even the most willingly blind had to see the racist and supremicist face beneath. A few, sickened, left the party. But for the most part even the never-Trump Republicans are still Republican. And that means they however much they harrumph and tut-tut, they will back the disenfranchisement of minorities.

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  7. Kathy says:

    I wonder if it will occur to someone to go on Fox News and begin to advocate for “counting only 3/5 of all Hispanics, in order to balance the many illegal immigrants.”

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  8. An Interested Party says:

    I wonder if it will occur to someone to go on Fox News and begin to advocate for “counting only 3/5 of all Hispanics, in order to balance the many illegal immigrants.”

    I’m sure that would occur to plenty of those kind of people if most illegal immigrants were in red states…

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