Supreme Court Signals Support for Trump’s Census Citizenship Question
Key U.S. Supreme Court justices seemed inclined to let the Trump administration add a question about citizenship to the 2020 census in a clash that will shape the allocation of congressional seats and federal dollars.
In an 80-minute argument Tuesday that was both technical and combative, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh directed almost all their questions to the lawyers challenging the decision to ask about citizenship. Kavanaugh said Congress gave the Commerce secretary "huge discretion" to decide what to ask on the census.
Opponents say a citizenship question could result in a census undercount in areas with large non-citizen populations that could shift congressional districts and federal funds away from those communities.
"There’s no doubt that people will respond less," Justice Sonia Sotomayor said. "That’s been proven in study after study."
The case is the court’s first direct look at an administration initiative since the justices upheld President Donald Trump’s travel ban last year. It will test the court’s willingness to defer to an administration that critics say has a penchant for cutting legal corners.
In a book-length opinion in January, U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman said that in deciding to add the citizenship question, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross committed a "veritable smorgasbord" of violations of the federal law that governs administrative agencies. That law requires officials to make major decisions through a reasoned process and to give an honest explanation for their actions.