Racial Justice Groups, Unions and Others Cautiously Celebrate SCOTUS Ruling on Census Citizenship Question

By N. Jamiyla Chisholm Jun 28, 2019

Right before the Supreme Court justices went on summer break, they ruled yesterday (June 27) to push the pause button on the Trump administration’s plan to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. While the secretary of commerce, Wilbur Ross, claimed that adding a citizenship question would improve enforcement of the Voting Rights Act, the Court rebuffed the argument. 

“Agencies must pursue their goals reasonably,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in his opinion. “Reasoned decision-making under the Administrative Procedure Act calls for an explanation for agency action. What was provided here was more of a distraction.”

Reactions to the ruling were swift, with labor unions, civil rights organizations and voter engagement groups releasing statements applauding the Court’s decision to count everyone in the country. A sampling:


Racial Equity Anchor Collaborative
rntt“Nine of the leading national civil rights and racial justice organizations* commend the SCOTUS ruling that blocks the citizenship question from being included in the 2020 Census. And yet, we remain cautious and steadfast against any pending arguments to add the question at a later date. The Commerce Department and the Census Bureau should immediately proceed with preparations for a 2020 Census that does not include the citizenship question,” wrote the Racial Equity Anchor Collaborative, which is supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. “Census Bureau research, racial justice organizations, and immigrant rights advocacy groups all concluded that this untested question would have interfered with the critical goal of a fully accurate Census. This is a win for democracy today, but it is temporary; the fight for a full and fair count is not over. We must continue to be resolute in blocking the administration from taking aggressive steps to alter this decision.”


rntt“The Court today rejected the Trump administration’s fraudulent justification for adding the citizenship question.  The highest court in the land–in an opinion authored by a Chief Justice appointed by a Republican President–has effectively ruled that the head of one federal government agency (the Department of Commerce) lied to the nation, aided and abetted by the head of another federal agency (the Department of Justice),”  wrote Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP. “We agree wholeheartedly with the Court’s conclusion that the decision to add the citizenship question was not made for the reasons put forth by Secretary Ross. Rather, it was a bald-faced effort to benefit one race and one political party at the expense of some of our nation’s most vulnerable communities. This astounding truth can no longer be swept under the rug.”  


The Leadership Conference Education Fund
rntt“We applaud today’s decision to block the untested citizenship question from the 2020 Census,” said Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference Education Fund, in a statement. “The decision affirms that the Supreme Court saw through the Trump administration’s deceitful attempts to weaponize the census for partisan purposes and threaten the accuracy of the decennial count. These efforts were, as the Court said, ‘contrived.’ Now the Commerce Department must move forward to ensure a fair and accurate count and stop their efforts to add this unnecessary question.” 


rnttHéctor Figueroa, president of the labor union 32BJ SEIU, said in a statement. “We are glad that today the Supreme Court today put the brakes on a harmful decision by the agency to add a citizenship question on the 2020 Census. We are hopeful that sending the case back to Census authorities and to the lower courts will result in a reaffirmation of what we know is right, to strike the question and proceed with the full Census count. The question has never been asked of all respondents in 230 years, and for decades, bureau officials have understood that a citizenship question would likely cause an undercount in immigrant communities, regardless of the respondents’ status. Over the past several months, three federal judges have ruled against the administration’s brazen manipulation of standard rules and procedures to force the addition of the question. Evidence continues to mount that it was designed with the express purpose of suppressing immigrant response rates through fear, thereby creating an undercount that would weaken political representation in the nation’s most diverse states and cut funding for local schools, health care, and other vital services for families and communities.” 


rntt“The Supreme Court recognized the corrupt intent behind the Trump Administration’s decision to add a citizenship question, but stopped short of deeming it unconstitutional. With only a few days left until survey forms are printed, the question is likely to remain off the 2020 census–a victory for our democracy. Allowing that question to be on the census would have disenfranchised communities of color for the administration's political ends,” BlackPAC executive director Adrianne Shropshire said in a statement.
rnttCampaign Legal Center
rntt“We applaud the U.S. Supreme Court for stopping the citizenship question in its tracks. An addition of the Census question would have chilled minority participation in the 2020 Census and made it less accurate,” said Paul Smith, vice president at Campaign Legal Center. “The quality of the census has been protected today from the hasty addition of a politically-motivated question. It is of the utmost importance that the census reflect all communities living in the country.”

Responding to the Court’s ruling with a threat, President Donald Trump tweeted, “I have asked the lawyers if they can delay the Census, no matter how long.” 

*Race Forward, Colorlines’ parent organization, is a member of the Racial Equity Anchor Collaborative.