United States Supreme Court Rules on the Legality of a Census Citizenship Application


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States Supreme Court will decide the fate of a plan challenged by the administration of President Donald Trump to add a citizenship issue to the 2020 census, agreeing on Friday that an expedited review of judge blocking the plan.

In a brief order, the judges granted the administration's request to hear its appeal of the January 15 decision of Manhattan-based US District Judge Jesse Furman even before a lower court of appeal considered the question. The pleadings will take place at the end of April and a decision will have to be made at the end of June.

Furman's decision came as a result of lawsuits filed by 18 US states, 15 cities and various civil rights groups challenging the Republican administration's decision to include the issue. The plaintiffs said the question would scare immigrants and Latinos of abstaining from the census, disproportionately affecting states with a democratic tendency.

Furman ruled that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had concealed the real motives behind his "arbitrary and capricious" decision to add the question of citizenship in violation of federal law.

Opponents have accused the administration of trying to create an undercount of the real population and to reduce the electoral representation of communities of democratic tendency in Congress, for the benefit of other Trump Republicans. Non-citizens represent about 7% of people living in the United States.

Time is of the essence because official census forms need to be printed in the coming months.

The United States Constitution provides for a census every 10 years. The official count of the population is used to distribute seats in the House of Representatives and distribute billions of dollars in federal funds. There has been no census question on citizenship status since 1950.

In March 2018, Ross announced that the administration would include a citizenship issue, claiming that the Department of Justice had requested the data to help enforce the Voting Rights Act, which protects eligible voters from discrimination. . Only US citizens can vote in federal elections.

Kelly Laco, spokeswoman for the Justice Department, said the administration was pleased that the judges are reviewing its "legal and reasonable decision to reinstate a citizenship issue in the 2020 census".

Trump has pursued radical policies to limit legal and illegal immigration. On Friday, Trump declared a national emergency to fund the wall he had promised along the US-Mexico border without congressional approval, a move he said was needed to fight the US-Mexico border. illegal immigration.


New York was one of the states to continue the administration. New York Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, said her office was looking forward to defending the trial court's victory in the high court, citing the "deep and lasting effects" of undercoverage of the court. census.

US lawyer Dale Ho, of the American Civil Liberties Union, representing immigrant rights groups pursuing the administration, said that adding an issue citizenship would undermine democracy. "The evidence presented at the trial revealed that it was the Trump administration's plan from the beginning," said Ho.

The administration described the Furman decision as "the first time the judiciary dictated the content of the decennial census questionnaire".

In his decision, Furman stated that the evidence showed that Ross and his associates "worked hard to generate" a request for citizenship from the Department of Justice, and that he made the decision despite the Census Bureau evidence that such a question would result in a weaker response. rate for the census.

The judge found a "real smorgasbord" of offenses to a law called the Law on Administrative Procedure.

Democrats view the issue of citizenship as part of a broader Republican effort at the federal and regional levels, including voter suppression and electoral redistribution, to reduce the electoral power of the regions. and pro-Democratic groups, including African Americans. Republicans reject the accusation.

The Supreme Court Building is seen from the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC, on February 15, 2019. REUTERS / Joshua Roberts

A judge's decision to deal with a case like this before an appeal is heard by one of the regional federal courts of appeal is rare. According to the rules of the court, it examines such requests only when the case is "of overriding public importance" and deserves immediate reconsideration.

The last time a court of appeal had formally decided to close a case before its judgment was in 2005. This case, which took place under the administration of President George W. Bush, was to challenge the guidelines relating to the penal punishment.

The Supreme Court rejected an earlier request by the Trump administration to end the New York lawsuit that led to Furman's subsequent decision.

Report by Andrew Chung; Edited by Will Dunham

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