The Supreme Court on Thursday refused to approve the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, a major setback for the Trump administration.
Chief Justice John Roberts, who joined the liberal justices in a 5-4 decision, said the administration had “contrived reasons” for adding the question and sent it back to a lower court. Time is not on the side of the Trump administration’s goal to include the question, as they told the Supreme Court they needed a decision by July so it could start printing census forms.
“The shameful decision to include a citizenship question on the 2020 Census was yet another example of the Trump administration’s attempt to erase our communities of color,” said California Assemblymember David Chiu, who represents San Francisco. “It is a relief that the Supreme Court understood what we have known all along — the administration’s reason for adding the citizenship question was dubious at best.”
San Francisco joined five other cities and 17 states in a legal coalition led by New York to stop the question from being added. California’s fourth most populous city warned that, in a climate of fear among immigrant communities, it would lead to a severe undercount and loss of critical federal funds determined by the decennial demographic count, which is also used to draw political districts.
The federal government is required to count every person living in the country and has kept the question of citizenship off the census since 1950 to accomplish that goal. That policy came seven years after confidential census data was given to incarcerate Japanese Americans. Since then, the citizenship question has been included in the annual American Community Survey, which the U.S. Department of Commerce said wasn’t comprehensive enough.
“It is about facts, not partisanship,” said City Attorney Dennis Herrera, who applauded the Supreme Court decision. “The census is an invaluable tool that underpins our democracy. “The administration’s question was designed to skew the census and undercount the population in a way that benefited Trump’s agenda, no matter the cost.”
The Supreme Court’s refusal to uphold the citizenship question is a turnaround from April, when all five conservative justices appeared poised to do the opposite. But documents from a deceased Republican operative revealed that President Donald Trump was first urged to include the question during his transition period because it “would be advantageous to Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites” and “would clearly be a disadvantage for the Democrats.”
While San Francisco can breathe a sigh of relief, it’s still one of the hardest cities to fully count. Plus, census cards — sans question of citizenship — aren’t yet printed and Trump tweeted that he asked lawyers if he could delay the 2020 Census altogether, until the Supreme Court is “given additional information.”
“Today’s decision calls into question the Trump Administration’s dubious reasoning for adding the citizenship question to the 2020 Census, but we also know that the fight must go on,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “We will fight to ensure that our friends, neighbors, and loved ones can stand up and be counted without fear.”