Census Citizenship Question Gets Blocked

Immigrant Rights, Racial Justice, Voting Rights

For Now, Census Citizenship Question Gets Blocked

Handing civil rights and immigrants’ rights groups a victory, the U.S. Supreme Court this morning ruled that the Trump Administration’s rationale for including a citizenship question on the 2020 Census “seems to have been contrived,” and sent the matter back to the Commerce Secretary to try to explain his real reasons. Given the Supreme Court’s dim view of the original explanation, and the District Court’s extreme skepticism of the Trump Administration’s rationale, inclusion of the citizenship question on the Census now seems in serious doubt.

“At this time, in light of its contrived rationale, the federal government can’t add the citizenship question to the Census. At Lawyers for Civil Rights, we see no way the Commerce Secretary can possibly provide a legitimate and lawful explanation,” said Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, Executive Director of Lawyers for Civil Rights.

Today’s ruling is a victory for equality and for the rule of law. In partnership with Mintz, Lawyers for Civil Rights filed a brief in this Supreme Court case, arguing that our country’s most vulnerable residents—including immigrants, people of color, and low-income individuals—are particularly harmed when agencies violate the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) by acting arbitrarily, capriciously, or in excess of their lawful authority. In rendering its decision, the Supreme Court highlighted this exact point, holding that “[t]he 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 this enterprise.”

We have won the battle. But the fight goes on. Lawyers for Civil Rights will continue working to ensure that the citizenship question is not included – and that historically undercounted communities are counted – in the Census.

We encourage our friends and allies to get involved by helping to ensure that our communities fill out the Census. Community outreach and engagement materials are available here.

The importance of the Census cannot be understated. In addition to determining our congressional representation, Census 2020 will allocate funding for over 130 federal programs, including MassHealth, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Head Start, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), and other important public and social services. If we are not all counted in the Census, then Massachusetts could lose $2,500 per person, per year in federal funding for ten years.

We are asking our allies to reassure their constituents that the personal information they share in their census form is completely confidential. That means that it is against the law for the Census Bureau to share personal information with anyone, including local, state, and federal government agencies. Lawyers for Civil Rights and other community advocates are here to protect any individual whose confidentiality is breached in any way.

Today, we celebrate this victory. Tomorrow, we continue to work to ensure that historically underrepresented populations are counted in the 2020 Census.

Need help? Call our multilingual Census Hotline at 617-482-1145 and visit www.lawyersforcivilrights.org/census.