Trump Administration’s Proposed Citizenship Question On The 2020 Census Blocked By Supreme Court

The administration insisted the question was necessary to enforce the Voting Rights Act, while critics said it was a pretext to identify illegal immigrants.

the supreme court building in washington
TexasGOPvote.com / Flickr (CC BY 2.0 Cropped and Resized)

The administration insisted the question was necessary to enforce the Voting Rights Act, while critics said it was a pretext to identify illegal immigrants.

The Trump administration’s efforts to include a citizenship question on the 2020 census has been dealt a blow by the Supreme Court, NBC News is reporting.

In a 5-4 decision, the four liberal justices on the court ruled in favor of the 18 states and several large cities, all with large Latino voting bases, in blocking the proposed citizenship question on the 2020 form. The four liberal justices were joined by Chief Justice John Roberts, who has largely been considered a conservative.

The Proposed Question

As previously reported by The Inquisitr, the administration directed the Commerce Department, which oversees the census, to include a question about citizenship on the 2020 form. Specifically, the question asks, “Is this person a citizen of the United States,” and pertains to each person who is included on the form. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has championed including the question on the 2020 form.

As Politifact reports, the administration claims the inclusion of the question is necessary to give the federal government accurate information required to enforce the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits discriminatory voting practices.

Critics of the question say that it’s simply a pretext for the administration to find out where undocumented immigrants are living. Further, they say, the question will discourage immigrant households from completing the census form, which will lead to inaccurate counts, particularly in states and cities with high immigrant populations.

That, in turn, would disrupt the amount of federal money allocated to those communities and could even result in lost congressional seats.

To that end, 18 states and several cities filed suit to stop the Commerce Department from including the question on the 2020 census.

The Court’s Ruling

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Writing for the majority, Roberts said that the Commerce Department did have the right to include the citizenship question on the 2020 census and on future censuses provided it had sufficient justification to do so. The proposed reason for including it on the 2020 form — that is, enforcing the Voting Rights Act — is “contrived,” according to the court.

“We are presented, in other words, with an explanation for agency action that is incongruent with what the record reveals about the agency’s priorities and decision-making process,” Roberts wrote, via CNN.

What Happens Now?

The ruling does allow for the Commerce Department to include the question, provided they can come up with a reason that will pass muster, should it survive another court challenge. However, as the forms are due to be printed in just a few weeks, it seems unlikely that the question will be included on the 2020 forms.