Proposed citizenship question blocked by Supreme Court, sent back to lower court

City News Service

Democratic Southland Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, who represents the nation’s most Latino district, today welcomed the U.S. Supreme Court decision to turn back the Trump administration’s effort to add a citizenship question to the 2020 U.S. census.

“The Supreme Court has turned back President Trump’s unconstitutional attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. This ruling is a victory for an accurate, comprehensive, and complete Census count.

“Trump is eager to silence the voices of vulnerable populations in our communities; that’s why he wanted a Census citizenship question that will dramatically undercount these populations.

“An accurate and complete 2020 Census is essential to ensuring our communities receive the federal funds we need for countless critical programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, school lunches, highway funding, housing assistance, and more.

“While the Court’s ruling is a victory for our nation, our House Democratic Majority will stay vigilant, and fight any further efforts to sabotage a fair and accurate 2020 Census.”

In a ruling by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who was joined by the court’s liberals, the court said the Trump administration did not adequately explain its reason for adding the question. The ruling included a direct rebuke to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who last year decided to add a citizenship question to all forms for the first time since 1950.

“Altogether, the evidence tells a story that does not match the explanation the secretary gave for his decision,” Roberts said.

The court sent the matter back to a lower court for review.

In January, U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman in New York blocked the citizenship question and issued a 277-page opinion describing how Ross had failed to follow the advice of Census experts or explain his reasons for making a change that could lead to a severe undercount. Judges in San Francisco and Maryland handed down similar rulings.

The Supreme Court agreed to hear the administration’s appeal in the case of Department of Commerce vs. New York on a fast-track basis because the government said it needed to begin printing Census forms this summer.

State Sen.-elect Lena Gonzalez, D-Long Beach, said while she was encouraged by the court’s opinion she feared that the damage has already been done.

“The dialogue surrounding the citizenship question has already discouraged many California families from participating in the 2020 Census,” Gonzalez said in a statement. “It is crucial now more than ever to work with my colleagues in the Legislature, the California Latino Legislative Caucus, and California API Legislative Caucus to create a new dialogue that will ensure all communities in Senate District 33 and throughout the state are counted.”

A report from the Capitol Weekly last month pointed to predictions of an undercount by some experts and the possibility of California losing a congressional seat for the first time in its history as the state’s population flattens out.

In a tweet, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said the court’s opinion will ensure a complete and accurate account and saw it as “a huge deal for us in California with a large undocumented community.”

Also praising the ruling this morning was Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendant of Schools Austin Beutner.

“The Supreme Court’s decision to not include the citizenship question in the 2020 Census is the right thing for public education,” he said in a statement.

“The Census is used to determine the amount of funding Los Angeles Unified receives from federal programs. Los Angeles Unified received $328 million in Title I funding and nearly $40 million for other federal education and health programs for the 2017-2018 school year. If the question is eventually included, it could lead to a loss of as much as $20 million every year in Title I funding, which would pay for about 200 additional teachers in schools serving students with the highest needs.

“The citizenship question is not some abstract, legal issue. It has real consequences in our schools.”

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti was effusive.

“This is a hopeful day for our democracy. The Census is the largest civic exercise in our country —an opportunity to show that everyone belongs here and everybody counts,” he said in a statement. “Instead, the administration tried to change who we are and write millions of people out of America’s story. Fortunately, the Supreme Court stopped this cynical ploy in its tracks, removing a major roadblock to participation in next year’s tally.”

Garcetti said he looks forward to the census “to ensure that hard-to-count populations—immigrant households, communities of color, low-income residents, and our most vulnerable neighbors—and all Angelenos are counted in the 2020 Census.”

President Donald Trump criticized the Court’s opinion on Twitter and threatened to delay the Census.

“Seems totally ridiculous that our government, and indeed country, cannot ask a basic question of citizenship in a very expensive, detailed and important Census, in this case for 2020,” he tweeted Thursday. “I have asked the lawyers if they can delay the Census, no matter how long, until the United States Supreme Court is given additional information from which it can make a final decisive decision on this very critical matter. Can anyone really believe that as a great country, we are not able the [sic] ask whether or not someone is a citizen. Only in America!”

Stephanie Rivera contributed to this report.

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