The Trump administration will print the 2020 census without the citizenship question, allowing millions of Latinx and African American residents who might otherwise have been overlooked to be counted in the decennial survey.
Attorneys at the U.S. Department of Justice informed civil rights attorneys about the decision on Tuesday afternoon. DOJ spokesperson Kelly Lasco confirmed to ThinkProgress there will be “no citizenship question on 2020 census.”
Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court called the administration out on its lie that it wanted to add the citizenship question so that it could better enforce the Voting Rights Act, and ruled that it would need a better rationale. Shortly after that ruling was issued, President Donald Trump tweeted that he would ask attorneys to delay the questionnaire, a process that by law, is mandated to begin on April 1, 2020.
Earlier on Tuesday, the Census Bureau missed its rigid deadline to begin printing the questionnaires, which will be distributed to all individuals living in the United States. It was unclear whether the Trump administration would try to come up with a new reason for adding the question. It faced difficult deadlines, new legal challenges, and would likely have had to admit that it added the question with discriminatory intent.
“I respect the Supreme Court but strongly disagree with its ruling regarding my decision to reinstate a citizenship question on the 2020 Census,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement. “The Census Bureau has started the process of printing the decennial questionnaires without the question. My focus, and that of the Bureau and the entire Department is to conduct a complete and accurate census.”
News about the administration’s decision broke late Tuesday, and a number of election advocates — including Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and former Obama White House Counsel Daniel Jacobson — welcomed the decision.
Here’s the email from DOJ pic.twitter.com/PdyfK0a1hJ
— Daniel Jacobson (@Dan_F_Jacobson) July 2, 2019
The Constitution mandates that a survey of all people living in the United States be conducted every 10 years. That data is used to draw up congressional and legislative districts and to determine how billions of dollars in federal funds are spent.
According to the Census Bureau’s own calculations, an estimated 9 million Americans would go uncounted in the 2020 Census if the question were included. Households with noncitizen members would have likely come to doubt the confidentiality of their answers and opt to withhold a response, fearing possible government misuse of the data, the Bureau determined.
Among those cheering the development was former Attorney General Eric Holder.
“The Trump administration dropping its discriminatory and unnecessary citizenship question from the Census is a victory for equal representation in our democracy,” he said in a statement.
“It’s also an important reminder that a mobilized and committed American people can stop this Administration’s destructive policies.”
U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), whose district covers sections of New York City and has a large minority population that would have been affected by the citizenship question, also hailed the news.
“The ominous storm cloud over the census has been lifted. This Administration is finally following the law. Moving forward with the 2020 Census without the citizenship question brings us a step closer to a full and accurate count,” Maloney said.
The Trump administration originally claimed that it added the citizenship question to better enforce the Voting Rights Act. However, new documents uncovered from the files of now deceased GOP gerrymandering mastermind Thomas Hofeller show Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and the Trump administration lied about their reasoning.
Those files, obtained by Common Cause, show Hofeller had previously urged the Trump administration to add the question to the Census, which would “clearly be a disadvantage to the Democrats” and “advantageous to Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites.”
This story was updated to include a statement by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.