Supreme Court rejects Trump admin.’s reasons for reinstating citizenship question in 2020 Census

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The Trump administration suffered a major blow after the United States Supreme Court rejected its explanation for adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census.

A coalition of cities, counties and states filed a lawsuit challenging the decision of Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in March 2018 to reinstate the citizenship question to the Decennial Census. The coalition argued that Sec. Ross violated the Enumeration Clause and the requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act.

In January this year, Judge Jesse Furman of the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York blocked the citizenship question. He ruled that the Commerce Secretary did not follow proper procedures when he decided to include it to the 2020 Census.

The Commerce Department appealed the district court’s ruling to the Supreme Court.

2020 Census

Supreme Court found Sec. Ross’s explanations to be “contrived” and a “distraction.”

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court ruled that the Department of Commerce did not provide adequate and sound explanation to restore the citizenship question to the Decennial Census.

In the 5-4 ruling, Conservative Justice John Roberts wrote that they share the District Court’s opinion that the whole evidence showed “that the decision to reinstate a citizenship question cannot be adequately explained in terms of a DOJ’s [Department of Justice’s] request for improved citizenship data to better enforce the VRA [Voting Rights Act].”

In addition, Justice Roberts wrote,” Several points, considered together, reveal a significant mismatch between the decision the Secretary [Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross] made and the rationale he provided.”

Furthermore, in the ruling the conservative justice noted that records showed Sec. Ross started taking steps to reinstate the citizenship question about a week into his role. However, he did not indicate that he was considering VRA enforcement in connection with the project.

“We are presented, in other words, with an explanation for agency action that is incongruent with what the record reveals about the agency’s priorities and decision making process…We cannot ignore the disconnect between the decision made and the explanation given,” according to Justice Roberts.

Moreover, he explained, “The reasoned explanation requirement of administrative law, after all, is meant to ensure that agencies offer genuine justifications for important decisions, reasons that can be scrutinized by courts and the interested public.”

“Accepting contrived reasons would defeat the purpose of the enterprise. In these unusual circumstances, the District Court was warranted in remanding to the agency, and we affirm that disposition.”

“We do not hold that the agency decision here was substantively invalid. But agencies must pursue their goals reasonably. Reasoned decisionmaking under the Administrative Procedure Act calls for an explanation for agency action. What was provided here was more of a distraction.”

Trump’s reaction

In a tweet, President Donald Trump commented that it’s “totally ridiculous” that the federal government cannot ask the citizenship of people in the 2020 Census. He added that he asked the lawyers if it is possible to “delay the Census no matter how long” until his administration provides additional information to the Supreme Court.