Census citizenship question trial can proceed, Supreme Court says

The Supreme Court has declined to postpone Monday's scheduled start of a trial challenging the Trump adminis...

Posted: Nov 3, 2018 3:14 PM
Updated: Nov 3, 2018 3:14 PM

The Supreme Court has declined to postpone Monday's scheduled start of a trial challenging the Trump administration's decision to reinstate a citizenship question on the census.

The Justice Department asked for the delay while the justices consider a separate motion asking them to limit evidence at trial, but the court on Friday refused.

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Immigration, citizenship and displacement

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US Supreme Court

The vote tally was not announced, and justices do not have to publicly reveal how they vote on such orders, but Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch said they would have granted the request to delay the trial. It would have taken five votes to grant the administration's request.

Last March, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who has jurisdiction over the census, announced the reinstatement of the citizenship question on the 2020 questionnaire. At the time, Ross said the Justice Department requested the change in part because the information would be useful for its enforcement of the Voting Rights Act.

Ross acknowledged that adding the question might impact response rates but that his concerns were outweighed by the prospect of more complete and accurate data.

The question hasn't been asked of all recipients to the Census since 1950.

His action was immediately challenged by a coalition of states as well as the ACLU, who charged that the Trump administration's real reason for adding the question was to reduce the representation of immigrant populations.

They said the question would harm the response rate in households comprised of non-citizens because some family members might be too afraid to come forward.

"The addition of the citizenship question is a naked act of intentional discrimination directed at immigrant communities of color that is intended to punish their presence, avoid their recognition, stunt their growing political power, and deprive them and the communities in which they live of economic benefits," the challengers wrote in court papers.

The Census Bureau's own researchers are warning about lower response rates as well, CNN has learned.

"Hispanics believe the census would be used to find undocumented people," they concluded and presented to the bureau's advisory committee on Thursday.

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