Supreme Court blocks citizenship question on census in blow to Trump
The Supreme Court ruled against President Trump’s move to add a controversial citizenship question to the 2020 census — for now.
The decision means the critical count will go ahead without including the question, which critics said would’ve led to a huge undercount of Latinos and strip immigrant-heavy states of funding and representation.
The top court voted 5-4 to send the case back to a lower court for further arguments about the administration’s motivations. But any further decision is likely to come too late to affect next year’s watershed count.
Chief Justice John Roberts joined with liberal judges to make the ruling.
Although the decision was a blow to Trump, it left the door open for the question to be added in the future.
The justices only ruled that the government’s claim about why it was adding the question was insufficient, not that adding the question was illegal in itself.
A coalition of states including New York joined immigrant rights organizations challenged the legality of the citizenship question.
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The government’s own studies show asking the question would lead to reducing participation by immigrants and Latinos by up to 6.5 million people, even though the Constitution says the census is supposed to count all people, not just legal citizens.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who oversees the census, claimed that the Trump administration wanted to add the question to better enforce the Voting Rights Act, an argument that critics derided as absurd.
Lower courts had repeatedly ruled against Trump on the citizenship question, suggesting that they did not find Ross’s claim believable.
The administration’s case took a big blow when computer files showed that a now-deceased GOP gerrymandering consultant had suggested adding the question to enhance the power of whites and Republicans.
Court-watchers had expected the Supremes to defer to Trump, especially after a hearing in which Roberts seemed to lean towards giving the government wide latitude.