Trump Cries Uncle on Citizenship Question for Census 2020

People gather in front of the U.S. Supreme Court as decisions are handed down June 27, 2019. The high court blocked a citizenship question from being added to the 2020 census.
Photo: Mark Wilson (Getty)

Looks like Donald Trump blinked. The Justice Department announced Tuesday that there will be no citizenship question on the 2020 census, a week after the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the addition of the question by raising concerns about the reasoning the Trump administration gave for wanting the change.

According to the New York Times, the DOJ made the announcement in a single sentence in an email to New York plaintiffs that had opposed the inclusion of a citizenship question.

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The White House didn’t immediately comment on the decision, but a spokesperson for the DOJ confirmed to the Associated Press that there would be “no citizenship question on [the] 2020 census.”

Trump, in raging against the Supreme Court’s decision, had said he would seek to delay the census to fight for the question in court, but as the Times explained:

the administration faced weeks or months of additional legal challenges to the question even as the Census Bureau had said it had to begin printing questionnaires by July 1 to meet the April 2020 deadline for conducting the census.

On Tuesday evening, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who oversees the census, told the Times that while he disagreed with the high court’s decision:

“The Census Bureau has started the process of printing the decennial questionnaires without the question,” he said. “My focus, and that of the Bureau and the entire Department is to conduct a complete and accurate census.”

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The turnaround was a victory for those who had argued that a citizenship question on the census would discourage participation among Hispanics and other disadvantaged groups, and would unfairly advantage Republicans.

The Commerce Department had argued the question was needed to help the DOJ better enforce the Voting Rights Act, but as the Times explained:

three lower courts ruled that that was an obvious pretext for some other unstated goal.

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Plaintiffs’ claims were further bolstered by the discovery of documents from deceased Republican operative Thomas Hofeller that included his findings that adding the question would help the GOP and “non-Hispanic whites.”

Plaintiffs cheered Tuesday’s seeming capitulation.

As Dale Ho, director of the Voting Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union, told the New York Times:

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“Everyone in America counts in the census, and today’s decision means we all will.”

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