Civil rights groups were in disbelief after the president said on Friday that he was still trying to find a way to include what some say is a racist question of citizenship question on the 2020 Census. His comments, made via Twitter, of course, came one day after Trump’s Department of Justice (DOJ) confirmed the census would be printed without the citizenship question.
It was just last week when the Supreme Court blocked Trump’s Commerce Department from adding the question that could negatively affect Black and brown communities across the country.
The reversed position was both surprising and to be expected from a president who has repeatedly appeared to disregard the law. Now, even though a Supreme Court that includes two Trump-nominated justices decided against the president, he said he was still “moving forward.”
USA Today reported that “a federal judge later demanded an explanation of Trump’s tweet before the DOJ responded in part by saying that it had “been instructed to examine whether there is a path forward, consistent with the Supreme Court’s decision, that would allow us to include the citizenship question on the census.”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) threatened more legal action if Trump and his administration ignored the Supreme Court’s decision.
“The Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration’s effort to add a census citizenship question was illegal because it was based on a ‘contrived’ rationale,” ACLU Voting Rights Project Director Dale Ho, the attorney who successfully argued the Supreme Court case, said in a statement on Friday afternoon. “Despite that, and despite DOJ’s repeated statements that the census questionnaire cannot be changed after June 30, the administration is now examining whether it can concoct a ‘new rationale’ for its citizenship question. The answer is no, it cannot — at least not a legal one. Any attempt at an end run around the Supreme Court’s decision will be unsuccessful, and will be met swiftly in court.”
The question of citizenship on the 2020 Census is important to both sides of the larger ongoing conversation on immigration, with the president taking a hardline stance against it. Including the question in the census would likely keep families with non-citizen members from participating in the population count, which the U.S. Constitution requires every 10 years. Since the lion’s share of those types of families lives in large urban cities, an undercount would impact the African-American communities that live there.
The population count determines the allocation of the House of Representatives’ 435 seats, as well as state and local legislatures in many jurisdictions. An undercount in large cities would mean that they would lose seats in Congress and their state legislature to smaller, non-urban communities.
At the same time, the census also determines how the federal government distributes funding to state and local governments for a range of public services, including education, various state health care programs (including Medicaid), and housing—to name just a few.
Trump’s Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross was accused of wanting to include the citizenship question at the request of the president’s far-right advisors who have a political agenda to undercount immigrants and minorities.
Back in October, Justice Clarence Thomas made his feelings on the matter clear when he was one of the leading voices with the dissenting opinion that helped the Supreme Court overturn a lower court’s ruling that Ross didn’t have to explain under oath his reason for adding the question.