The Census Citizenship Question Rollercoaster is Over, Supposedly

The president was ready to force it through, then backed down by Thursday afternoon.

In March of next year, 2020 Census forms will be sent to households nationwide (Courtesy photo)

After two weeks of an intensifying roller coaster over the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, President Donald Trump announced Thursday he would no longer pursue it.

The question has been brewing for about a year but appeared to meet its end when the Supreme Court rejected it at the end of June. Less than a week later, the Commerce Department conceded that it began the process of printing questionnaires to the cheers of local officials.

San Francisco and California joined a legal coalition around the country to prevent the question’s addition, warning that it would lead to a severe undercount amid fear in immigrant communities. The decennial census determines congressional districts and informs federal funds touching on transportation, emergency services, and health care. Due to the large renter population, low-income residents, noncitizens, and young children, San Francisco is already one of the hardest cities to count.

Trump first attempted to delay the 2020 Census altogether in response to the Supreme Court decision. Federal courts once again intervened this week after the Justice Department attempted to replace lawyers arguing the Trump administration’s position on the case in what’s considered an unusual reason.

Instead, Trump announced Thursday he would issue an executive order to have federal departments hand over citizenship data to the Census Bureau — something the latter has already considered. The agency said this administrative data could determine citizenship status on each block.

“That President Trump conceded there will not be a citizenship question on the 2020 census is a victory for all Americans, no matter how he tries to frame it,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “It is time for the Trump Administration to move on. The bottom line remains: everyone must count in our nation and no one should be pushed into the shadows.”

A question of citizenship has stayed off the census since 1950, seven years after the Census Bureau divulged its data to incarcerate Japanese Americans. Instead, it appears on the annual American Community Survey in order to count citizens while obtaining a mandated complete population count on the larger census.

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