Court temporarily blocks census citizenship question
by Harvest Prude
Posted 6/27/19, 12:35 pm
WASHINGTON—The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday temporarily blocked the Trump administration from adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census.
The court affirmed the administration’s ability to add a citizenship question, citing past examples of the survey with such a question, but it was not persuaded by the administration’s justification for the move.
“We do not hold that the agency decision here was substantively invalid,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the opinion. “But agencies must pursue their goals reasonably. Reasoned decision making under the Administrative Procedure Acts calls for an explanation for agency action. What was provided here was more of a distraction.”
The Trump administration argued that adding a citizenship question would make it easier to enforce the Voting Rights Act. Multiples states challenged the plan, arguing it would undercount immigrants who were afraid to reveal their status to authorities.
The court’s vote was splintered, with different justices agreeing with various parts of Roberts’ opinion. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the court had only to decide if the commerce secretary complied with the law and then explained his decision: “The court correctly answers these questions in the affirmative. That ought to end our inquiry.”
Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan wrote that “the secretary’s decision to add the citizenship question was arbitrary and capricious and therefore violated the Administrative Procedure Act.”
The administration planned to print the census questionnaires next month, but the case, now returned to a lower court, may not be resolved in time.
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Harvest is a reporter for WORLD based in Washington, D.C.