Trump administration still pushing to add citizenship question to Census forms

indica News Bureau-


President Donald Trump has indicated that he might issue an executive order to place a citizenship question on the 2020 Census, for the first time since the 1950 count, one of several options his administration has been considering in the wake of a Supreme Court decision that rejected the inclusion of such questions on the forms.

Meanwhile, a federal judge rejected the administration’s request to freeze a lawsuit alleging the White House intended to discriminate against Hispanics with its drive to add the citizenship question, according to published reports.

The judge’s order on Friday followed a Justice Department filing in the case saying it was still exploring all available option on whether and how to continue efforts to add the question.

Also on Friday, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) along the state of New York and immigrants-rights groups filed a motion asking a federal court to block the Trump administration from delaying printing of the forms or adding a question to them.

The Supreme Court last week rejected the inclusion of a citizenship question, saying that the administration was unpersuasive that the question is needed for enforcement of the Voting Rights Act.

Friday’s judge’s order, in a Maryland case, potentially added to pressure on the Justice Department, which now may have to turn over reams of documents to plaintiffs seeking evidence that disputes the administration’s claims that it didn’t have a discriminatory motive in wanting to add the question.

Material found on a computer that belonged to a now-deceased Republican consultant in North Carolina raised questions about the origins of the effort.

The government had asked US District Judge George Hazel, in Greenbelt, Maryland, to delay the discrimination case until the administration decides whether to renew its legal campaign to add the question following last week’s Supreme Court decision that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross gave “contrived” rationales for the plan that flouted policy-making requirements.

Hazel was having none of it, saying discovery related to the origins of the question would “still remain relevant” and should begin without delay.

Friday’s developments were the latest turns in the White House drive to get the citizenship question added to the census form. But the government did little to clarify how it is going to respond to the Supreme Court’s requirement for a legitimate rationale; the administration had said the question was needed to improve enforcement
of the Voting Rights Act.

On Tuesday, the Commerce and Justice departments announced the fight was over and the forms were being sent to the printer without the question. Trump speculated on Friday the administration could “maybe do an addendum after we get a positive decision”.

“I have a lot of respect for Justice Roberts,” Trump said, referring to the chief justice. “But he didn’t like it, but he did say come back.”

The creation of political districts historically has been based on total population, rather than citizen population, and the Constitution requires “counting the whole number of persons in each State.”

Separately, plaintiffs in a New York case asked a judge there to block the Trump administration from adding the question because the Justice Department had previously said June 30 was the deadline for finishing the census form.

The motion, filed by the ACLU on behalf of immigrant-rights groups, says the government invoked that deadline to persuade courts to expedite the case, forcing the plaintiffs to forego discovery they believe could have helped prove a discriminatory motive behind the policy.

At the White House before leaving for New Jersey on Friday, Trump said he had four or five options on the question but didn’t say what they were.

Conservative lawyers, however, have been floating ideas on the matter in opinion columns. One approach, laid out by radio host Hugh Hewitt laid last week in the Washington Post, proposes a new rationale for the citizenship question based on the fact that many of the Democratic candidates in a televised debate last week expressed support for expanding Medicare to younger U.S. citizens and certain non-citizens.

The citizenship question was last asked on the main census form in 1950, although the Census Bureau collects citizenship data through its American Community Survey. The survey, which some 3.5 million households are required to complete annually, is used by federal, state and local policy makers, along with businesses, nonprofits and academic researchers.

Congress never passed implementing legislation, and the federal government never has sought to enforce the provision.

“With subsequent constitutional amendments adopted and the use of federal coercive powers to enfranchise persons, the section is little more than an historical curiosity,” according to the official Constitution Annotated published by the Congressional Research Service.

If the administration does devise a new rationale, the Justice Department filing acknowledged, the plaintiffs “will be fully entitled to challenge that decision at that time.”

The case before Hazel alleges that the citizenship question was devised to discriminate against Hispanics. The plaintiffs contend that recently discovered evidence traces the question to a Republican political strategist whose research indicated it would help shift political power to white voters and Republicans in redistricting.


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