An organization defending the Trump administration’s restoration of a citizenship question to the 2020 census is praising the Supreme Court’s decision to block a deposition of the Commerce secretary demanded by immigrant-rights groups.
Justice Ruth Ginsburg had put the brakes on the plan, and now the full court has ordered a halt to a request by the immigrant-rights groups suing the government to depose Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.
J. Christian Adams, whose Public Interest Legal Foundation has submitted a brief in the case, said: “It’s perfectly reasonable to return the citizenship question to the census and will prove beneficial for all Americans. Racial minorities will particularly reap the benefit of robust citizenship data gathered.”
Adams said the activist groups “opposing a robust collection of data suffered a big loss, and the Supreme Court seems ready to deliver more blows to their case if they persist.”
The Washington Times reported New York’s attorney general had joined the activists in their demands.
The ruling Monday gave the government a week to file an official appeal.
The Times said all of the justices agreed to halt the Ross deposition. However, Justices Neil M. Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas said they would have stopped the New York challenge altogether.
The court did allow another Justice Department official to be deposed. But the government also can challenge that decision.
The Times said: “Halting Mr. Ross’s deposition is at least a tentative victory for Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who just last week had lambasted the lower court judges who’d approved the questioning. Mr. Sessions called it an unconstitutional intrusion by the judiciary into the executive branch’s decision-making.”
Critics of the citizenship question demanded to “probe the secretary’s mental state.”
The questioning of President Trump’s appointee is unnecessary, the administration insisted. The government argued the census previously included citizenship questions from 1820 to 1950, except for one time, and again from 1960 through 2000.
“Since 2005, the Census Bureau has included questions about citizenship and birthplace in detailed annual surveys sent to samples of the population,” the government said, arguing the challenge has no foundation.
The claim that “some households containing individuals who are unlawfully present will be deterred from responding (despite their legal duty to respond)” also is without merit, the administration said.
“The immediate dispute here is about whether respondents are entitled to probe Secretary Ross’s mental state – his subjective motivations – when he decided to reinstate the citizenship question. Secretary Ross consulted with many parties, including Census Bureau, Commerce Department, and Justice Department officials, before announcing his decision, and he set forth his reasons in a detailed memorandum backed by a voluminous administration record,” the filing states.
“Those reasons include the Justice Department’s view that citizenship data from the decennial census would be helpful to its enforcement duties under the Voting Rights Act of 1965.”
The Supreme Court, the filing argues, “has long recognized that an agency decisionmaker’s mental state is generally irrelevant to evaluating the legality of agency action.
“So too has this court recognized that compelling the testimony of a high-ranking government official – especially a member of the President’s Cabinet – is rarely if ever justified.
“Secretary Ross set forth the reasons supporting his decision to reinstate a citizenship question in a detailed memorandum, and the government has provided an extensive administrative record in support of that determination.”