Trump administration drops citizenship question from 2020 census

The Trump administration said Tuesday it was dropping a citizenship question from the 2020 census, days after the Supreme Court ruled against the question’s inclusion.

President Trump had initially said that he wanted to delay the decennial census as his administration continued to push for the question to be included in the 2020 survey.

But that effort appears to be over, after a Justice Department lawyer said the decision was made to start printing census materials without the question included.{mosads}

“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,” DOJ attorney Kate Bailey wrote in an email sent to groups challenging the question, a copy of which was obtained by The Hill.

Former Obama White House lawyer Daniel Jacobson had first made the revelation in a tweet earlier Tuesday, which included a screenshot of Bailey’s email.

The decision is a significant victory for those opposed to the question’s inclusion on the 2020 survey. It follows the Supreme Court’s ruling last week that dealt a major blow to the administration, which has publicly pushed for the question’s inclusion since 2018.
“I respect the Supreme Court but strongly disagree with its ruling regarding my decision to reinstate a citizenship question on the 2020 Census,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who oversees the census, said in a statement Tuesday.
“The Census Bureau has started the process of printing the decennial questionnaires without the question,” he continued. “My focus, and that of the bureau and the entire department is to conduct a complete and accurate census.”
Critics had pointed to studies, including those produced by the the Trump administration, that showed asking about citizenship would lead to some skipping the question or the census altogether, and cause an inaccurate count of the population.
The Trump administration had argued that the question was needed to help the Justice Department enforce the Voting Rights Act.
The Supreme Court last week had rejected that rationale behind the question’s inclusion on the 2020 census. However, the justices left a small opening for Trump officials to still add the question to the survey.
In the 5-4 ruling, Chief Justice John Roberts and the court’s liberal justices ruled that the reasoning behind adding the citizenship question to next year’s census didn’t match up with the evidence in the case, but sent the matter back to the Commerce Department to provide another reason.
Trump had initially seized on that opportunity, saying as recently as Monday that he was looking “very strongly” at delaying the census to try and get the citizenship question included.

“So you can ask other things, but you can’t ask whether or not somebody is a citizen? So we are trying to do that,” Trump told reporters at the White House at the time.

The president Tuesday evening said he was still determined to get the question on the census, saying he asked the Justice and Commerce Departments to do “whatever is necessary.”
Delaying the census would surely trigger a new wave of legal challenges, as the Constitution requires a count of the population every decade.
Also at issue was a July 1 printing deadline, which the administration had repeatedly cited in court documents as needing to be met in order to ensure the census was administered on time. The administration had appeared to miss that Monday deadline.
Those challenging the question were quick to celebrate the outcome.

“Today’s news is a victory for New York State, for America, and for every single person in this nation,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James (D), whose state led the lawsuit that made its way to the Supreme Court.

“While the Trump administration may have attempted to politicize the census and punish cities and states across the nation, justice prevailed, and the census will continue to remain a tool for obtaining an accurate count of our population.”
And the ACLU, which also fought the question in court, said that the Supreme Court’s ruling meant that the administration had “no choice” but to move forward without a citizenship question.
“Everyone in America counts in the census, and today’s decision means we all will,” Dale Ho, the director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, said in a statement.
The scrutiny over the citizenship question was amplified in recent weeks, when new evidence filed in federal courts in New York and Maryland indicated that the late GOP redistricting strategist Thomas Hofeller was involved in the question’s addition to the 2020 census.
The documents showed that Hofeller had conducted an unpublished study in 2015 that found that asking about citizenship on the census would help Republicans and white communities in redistricting, but hurt Democrats and Hispanics.
And the evidence suggested that Hofeller was contacted by a Census Bureau staffer as early as 2015 about a potential citizenship question, and that he may have helped in the drafting of a memo used by the Trump administration to argue for the citizenship query’s inclusion.
The administration had strongly pushed back against the evidence, denying that Hofeller’s study or potential contacts with Trump officials had any impact.
That evidence had played a particularly important role in federal court in Maryland, where a judge had ruled that the evidence raised a “substantial issue” and was set to review whether there was a discriminatory intent behind the question’s addition. That is a different legal challenge than the one presented to the Supreme Court, meaning that the lower judge could block the citizenship question on different grounds.
The Justice Department again confirmed that the citizenship question would not be on the 2020 census during a teleconference held Tuesday evening in that Maryland case, Covington and Burling lawyer Shankar Duraiswamy told The Hill. Duraiswamy is the lead counsel in that case against the question. 
The question has also been the subject of a congressional investigation, led by House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.).
The committee voted last month, largely along party lines, to hold Ross and Attorney General William Barr in contempt for failing to comply with congressional subpoenas on the citizenship question’s inclusion.
Republicans on the panel, including ranking member Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), had cast the contempt vote as an effort to disrupt the Supreme Court’s ruling.
But Cummings and other Democrats on the committee argued that the court rulings are separate from the congressional oversight.
Updated: 10:43 p.m.
Tags Census Donald Trump Elijah Cummings Jim Jordan Wilbur Ross William Barr
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