Citizenship question will not appear on 2020 Census

Chief Justice Roberts struck again and today the Trump administration decided not to fight back. There will not be a citizenship question on the next Census. From CNN:


The government had initially said that Monday was the deadline to begin printing forms. As late as Monday afternoon, however, the administration asked a federal judge in Maryland for more time to decide how it would proceed following the Supreme Court decision.

On Tuesday afternoon, shortly before the rescheduled hearing was set to start, a Justice Department lawyer told plaintiffs the administration was moving ahead with printing.

“We can confirm that the decision has been made to print the 2020 Decennial Census questionnaire without a citizenship question, and that the printer has been instructed to begin the printing process,” Kate Bailey, a trial attorney with the Justice Department, wrote in an email to other attorneys involved in the case on Tuesday.

President Trump said last week that he might consider delaying the printing of the Census questionnaire. Just yesterday he reiterated that he thought the citizenship question was important:

“I think it is very important to find out if somebody is a citizen as opposed to an illegal,” Trump said. “It is a big difference to me between being a citizen of the United States and being an illegal.”

Trump has insisted on asking about citizenship to the consternation of critics and constitutional experts who say that adding such a question would lead to decreased responses and inaccurate counts…

The president’s critics have also argued that adding such a question would lead to a chilling effect among immigrants who might fear increased government attention to their citizenship status.


This is one of those issues where it’s hard for me to take the opposing point of view very seriously. Jazz wrote a good post looking at those arguments back in April and I find his rebuttals entirely convincing. Simply put, we’ve asked this before so there’s really no doubt it’s allowable to ask.

As for the concerns about a “chilling effect” is that supposed to be a feature or a bug? Given the crisis we have now at the border, don’t we want to create a chilling effect among immigrants who come here illegally. You could argue that the two issues are distinct, i.e. the Census question is about who is already here and the ongoing border crisis is about who is coming here.

I don’t think the two are that distinct. If the message we’re sending is that, once you make it across the border by whatever means we’re not going to do anything or even ask a question about it as a nation, then that’s the message that gets sent around the world. We’re seeing the results of that message play out right now.

On the other hand, if the message is that we’re going to keep careful track of who is here legally and who isn’t, then that’s the message that gets sent. Again, it’s not that this information was going to be used to round anyone up for deportation, it’s mostly just a tone being set. Given current events, we could stand a little chilling effect.


Chief Justice Roberts must have known that by sending this back to a lower court, with the help of the court’s liberals who opposed adding the question, he was creating a delay that would make it all but impossible to include the question as a practical matter. Delaying the printing of the census is possible but it’s expensive and Democrats in the House refused to put up any money for a delay. This seems like a political move on Roberts’ part to find a way to give the left what it wants (and not for the first time).

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Jazz Shaw 12:30 PM | June 18, 2024