POLITICS

Trump Administration Drops Bid To Put Citizenship Question On 2020 Census

The decision comes days after the Supreme Court temporarily blocked the administration from adding the question.

There will not be a question asking about citizenship on the 2020 census, the Trump administration said Tuesday.

The decision comes less than a week after the Supreme Court temporarily blocked the administration from adding the question, saying it did not provide an adequate explanation for the addition.

“We can confirm that the decision has been made to print the 2020 Decennial Census questionnaire without a citizenship question, and that the printer has been instructed to begin the printing process,” Kate Bailey, a Justice Department attorney, wrote to lawyers for the plaintiffs challenging the addition of the question.

Justice Department spokeswoman Kelly Laco confirmed the move in an email to HuffPost.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who oversees the Census Bureau, made the decision to add the citizenship question in 2018, even though Census Bureau officials advised against doing so.

“I respect the Supreme Court but strongly disagree with its ruling regarding my decision to reinstate a citizenship question on the 2020 Census,” Ross said in a statement Tuesday. “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.”

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross played a major role in the effort to add a citizenship question to the census.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross played a major role in the effort to add a citizenship question to the census.

The decision is a clear victory for immigrant and civil rights groups who warned that adding the question would cause fewer people to respond to the decennial survey. They said minorities and immigrant groups would be disproportionately affected, with potentially severe consequences. The census is used to determine how electoral districts are drawn as well as how roughly $880 billion in federal funds are allocated each year.

Dale Ho, the director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project and an attorney who represented some of the plaintiffs challenging the question, celebrated the announcement.

“In light of the Supreme Court’s ruling, the Trump administration had no choice but to proceed with printing the 2020 census forms without a citizenship question. Everyone in America counts in the census, and today’s decision means we all will,” Ho said in a statement Tuesday.

The Trump administration said the question was necessary to better enforce the Voting Rights Act, but the Supreme Court said last week that officials had failed to adequately explain why that was the case. The Supreme Court sent the case back to a lower court, giving the Trump administration another opportunity to explain.

The government had repeatedly said that it faced a July 1 deadline for sending the census forms to the printer, so the Supreme Court’s decision was thought to effectively end the chances of the question getting on the census. But after the ruling, President Donald Trump repeatedly said he had instructed government lawyers to look into delaying the census.

Even though the 2020 census won’t have a citizenship question, there could be other ways to discourage minorities from responding, said Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. 

“We want to make sure they’re not going to be undermining the decision with all kinds of misinformation, disinformation in the future,” Saenz said in an interview with HuffPost. “If you undermine the removal of the citizenship question by tweeting constantly, ‘Oh, only citizens should be filling out the census. Oh, there may still be a citizenship question,’ that’s false. False tweets, false information like that could scare people from even reviewing the forms.”

Saenz said his group would seek in its ongoing lawsuit to secure assurances from the government that it wouldn’t undermine immigrant participation.

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