Trump and the census citizenship question

By Ellen Ratner

How does a president agree to one thing and change his mind? That’s what happened with the census citizenship question. The Supreme Court sent it to a lower court and neatly avoided the question.

President Trump’s own department decided to print the census forms without the question about citizenship. Then the president said he was considering an executive order to the Department of Commerce, which conducts the census.

What happens when the Supreme Court doesn’t do what the president wants, and his own department says they’re going to print the form without the question? Writing for the majority opinion, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. (a Republican appointment) said the explanation offered by the Trump administration for adding the question “appears to have been contrived.” According to the New York Times:

Executive branch officials must “offer genuine justifications for important decisions, reasons that can be scrutinized by courts and the interested public,” the chief justice wrote. “Accepting contrived reasons would defeat the purpose of the enterprise. If judicial review is to be more than an empty ritual, it must demand something better than the explanation offered for the action taken in this case.”

“The secretary,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote, “was determined to reinstate a citizenship question from the time he entered office; instructed his staff to make it happen; waited while commerce officials explored whether another agency would request census-based citizenship data; subsequently contacted the attorney general himself to ask if D.O.J. would make the request; and adopted the Voting Rights Act rationale late in the process.”

“Altogether,” the chief justice wrote, “the evidence tells a story that does not match the explanation the secretary gave for his decision.”

Let’s look at what happened this week. On Friday, President Trump said he was considering four or five options, including an executive order. What blows one’s mind is the president called the printing of the documents “fake news.” This is after his own department said that they were going to print the forms without the question about citizenship. President Trump told the press on Friday, “We’ll see what happens. … We could also add an addition on. So we could start the printing now and maybe do an addendum after we get a positive decision. So we’re working on a lot of things including an executive order.”

The president also took to Twitter on this decision, saying: “Asked the lawyers if they can delay the Census, no matter how long, until the United States Supreme Court is given additional information from which it can make a final and decisive decision on this very critical matter.”

CBS News also reported that a dead man’s information was turned in that talked about why he wanted to find out more via the census:

A Republican redistricting expert advocated for adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census to give an electoral edge to white people and Republicans, opponents of the move alleged in a court filing Thursday.

The filing in Manhattan federal court said a trove of newly discovered documents revealed that Thomas Hofeller, a longtime Republican gerrymandering guru, played a key role in pushing the Trump administration to include a citizenship question on the census for the first time since 1950. …

“The new evidence reveals that Dr. Thomas Hofeller, the longtime Republican redistricting specialist, played a significant role in orchestrating the addition of the citizenship question to the 2020 Decennial Census in order to create a structural electoral advantage for, in his own words, ‘Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites,’ and that defendants obscured his role through affirmative misrepresentations,” the filing said.

Delay the census? Wow, those of us who are used to it happening every 10 years can’t imagine a delay. I am a liberal, but not a fan of President Roosevelt. In 1939, Roosevelt sent the St. Louis ship back to Europe, where about a quarter of the people on the ship died at the hands of Nazis. It was not a good day for America.

President Trump is not the first president to worry about immigration. The “hero” Roosevelt clearly did as well.

The census question has a purpose of redistricting to help the Republican Party. Presidents – including Roosevelt – have used immigrants for their own purposes; and this president (Trump) is no exception.

Leave a Comment