In a shocking decision Thursday, the Supreme Court blocked the Trump administration’s effort to reinstate a question on citizenship on the 2020 census, sending the dispute back to the lower courts.
Furious at the decision, President Donald Trump lashed out on Twitter: “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.”
“Only in America”
In the two-part tweet, Trump continued, “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 and decisive decision on this very critical matter. Can anyone really believe that as a great Country, we are not able the ask whether or not someone is a Citizen. Only in America!”
…..United States Supreme Court is given additional information from which it can make a final and decisive decision on this very critical matter. Can anyone really believe that as a great Country, we are not able the ask whether or not someone is a Citizen. Only in America!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 27, 2019
Roberts joins liberal justices
Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the liberal justices who agreed with the complainants and lower courts that the administration’s reasoning and rationale for the inclusion of the question seemed “contrived.”
In reality, the only thing “contrived” is the belief that the administration needed to justify the inclusion of the citizenship question to begin with.
Even the Syllabus of the Department of Commerce v. New York opinion noted in the very second line that Congress had delegated full authority to the Commerce secretary, by virtue of the Census Act, “the task of conducting the de-cennial census ‘in such form and content as he may determine.'”
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross offered up a rationale for the inclusion of the citizenship question, chiefly, that doing so would provide substantial data necessary to aid in the enforcement of the Voting Rights Act, in addition to the obvious reasoning that a government should know how many citizens and non-citizens resided in the country, not to mention the fundamental rationale for the Census in the first place — appropriate apportionment of representation based on population.
Activists and the lower courts, now joined by Roberts and the liberal justices, rejected the government’s stated reasons and suggested that the inclusion of the citizenship question was instead driven by unstated racism, xenophobia, and a desire to oppress minorities — an absurdly unfair and obstructionist argument.
In a scathing dissent, conservative Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, wrote that the court had, in unprecedented fashion, chosen to invalidate “an agency action solely because it questions the sincerity of the agency’s otherwise adequate rationale.”
“Unable to identify any legal problem with the Secretary’s reasoning, the Court imputes one by concluding that he must not be telling the truth,” he added, noting that the court had just established a precedent that would come back to haunt them.
As noted above, the Supreme Court didn’t necessarily say that a citizenship question — which for a long period was a standard part of the Census — could never be included. In essence, all the court did was kick this current dispute back down to the lower courts with a “try again” message.
Whether the administration continues to press the issue, or even temporarily delays the census, to get the citizenship question included on the 2020 Census remains to be seen.