Supreme Court Hears Arguments on the 2020 Census Citizenship Question: Hundreds of Millions of Dollars for New York State in Danger

Article 1 Section 2 of the Constitution requires an “enumeration;” a census every ten years,

Representatives … shall be apportioned among the several States … according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons (meaning slaves). The actual Enumeration shall be made … every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct

For the first time since 1950 a citizenship question was added to the census.

The administration budgeted one billion dollars less than requested, and, the major point of contention: a question dealing with citizenship status which could discourage participation in the Census even though the census professional staff ruled the citizenship question inappropriate the Secretary of Commerce included the citizenship question.

The citizenship question was challenged in the federal courts and, in a scathing decision the courts sustained the appellants and ruled the question inappropriate.

Plaintiffs proved at trial that, if the citizenship question is added to the 2020 census questionnaire, they will suffer serious harm in the form of lost political representation, lost federal funding, and degradation of information that is an important tool of state sovereignty.  And at least two of those injuries, the loss of political representation and the degradation of information would be irreparable, without any adequate remedy at law.

 Measured against these standards, Secretary Ross’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census —even if it did not violate the Constitution itself —was unlawful for a multitude of independent reasons and must be set aside. To conclude otherwise and let Secretary Ross’s decision stand would undermine the proposition —central to the rule of law —that ours is a government of law and not of men.” And it would do so with respect to what Congress itself has described as “one of the most critical constitutional functions our Federal Government perform” (Read entire decision here)

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments today.  The issues before the court:

Issues: (1) Whether the district court erred in enjoining the secretary of the Department of Commerce from reinstating a question about citizenship to the 2020 decennial census on the ground that the secretary’s decision violated the Administrative Procedure Act;; (2) whether, in an action seeking to set aside agency action under the APA, a district court may order discovery outside the administrative record to probe the mental processes of the agency decision maker — including by compelling the testimony of high-ranking executive branch officials — without a strong showing that the decision-maker disbelieved the objective reasons in the administrative record, irreversibly prejudged the issue, or acted on a legally forbidden basis; and (3) whether the secretary’s decision to add a citizenship question to the decennial census violated the enumeration clause of the U.S. Constitution.

The Census will determine representation in the House of Representatives, New York State could lose two seats if the undercount is the same as in 2010, and, fifty-five federal programs are determined by population, New York State could lose hundreds of  millions in federal dollars. The State receives 1.6 billion in federal education dollars.

Maya Wiley, an MSNBC contributor and a Professor at the New York School University made a troubling presentation a few weeks ago.

The 2020 Census will be the first on-line Census. It is grossly underfunded and the federal administration in Washington has raised significant concerns for immigrants, legal residents and other vulnerable people. The New School’s Digital Equity Laboratory has been working on a project to support greater collaborative work between libraries, community leaders and city governments in the New York region to support a fair and safe Census.

 The CUNY Mapping Service  lays out the data and the challenges: “low response scores,” “population groups with increased risks of being undercounted,” “households with no computer or inadequate internet access,” by neighborhood.

The Bureau of Census, the advocates and the newly appointed New York City Census Director, Julie Menin are planning to work with libraries, and community organizations, an excellent plan; however, why aren’t schools at the center of the plan?

I e-communicated with Julie Menin, and did receive a thumbs up.

There are 1800 schools, 1.1 million kids and over 100,000 highly motivated teachers and paraprofessionals. Schools have staff members to match the language of their students, and close relationships with families.

Why isn’t the Department of Education at the center of a census outreach plan?

The teacher union is enthusiastic and understands the vital importance; an undercount means loss of jobs and vital services to children and families.

In addition every high school senior must take a course entitled, “Participation in Government,”

This course aims to provide students with opportunities to become engaged in the political process by acquiring the knowledge and practicing the skills necessary for active citizenship. Content specifications are not included, so that the course can adapt to present local, national, and global circumstances, allowing teachers to select flexibly from current events to illuminate key ideas and conceptual understandings. Participation in government and in our communities is fundamental to the success of American democracy.

The course can engage students in census field work across the state, a powerful tool to maximize participation in the census, a powerful activity to involve students in civics, in real live activities.

While the Census is a year away now is the time to create an inclusive plan.

The Specialized High Schools and the admittance test and grades 3-8 Standardized Testing dominate the news cycle while the Census is barely acknowledged.

I hope that State Commissioner Elia instructs her staff to post Census lessons on the EngageNY website as well as instruct school district leaders to provide Census outreach in each and every school in the state.

I am hopeful that Chancellor Carranza will appoint a Census Coordinator, a vital position considering what’s at stake.

Let’s be honest, the citizenship question is a direct assault on “blue” cities and states intended to reduce their political clout by reducing their electoral votes as well as “punishing” them with fewer dollars: the ultimate cynicism

Will the five conservatives on the Court cast “political” votes?  I fear another Bush v Gore, a decision that ignores the rule of law, a decision that tries to entrench political power from the anti-democratic right.

The decision is due in June.







2 responses to “Supreme Court Hears Arguments on the 2020 Census Citizenship Question: Hundreds of Millions of Dollars for New York State in Danger

  1. The next Census takes place in 2020. The results of that Census will not change the election of 2020, and the Census won’t be reported until December 31, 2020, after the election is over.

    If the GOP loses more seats in both Houses of Congress and Trump is dumped out of the White House on his fat, flabby, lying arse, it is possible that even if the Supreme Court rules in favor of Trump’s latest, fascist, executive crap since everything he does is crap (except when he sits on his gold plated toilet seat because with his diet he has to be totally constipated), the new president and government might be able to reverse that Trump executive order.

    After Trump (known as AT), Congress will in a position to “trump” the conservative majority Supreme Court through new legislation that will pass the Constitutional test.

    And then the new president, if he/she is a Democrat, with support from Congress, may add seats to the U.S. Supreme Court and strip away that conservative majority.

    “The answer is that under the Constitution, the number of Supreme Court Justices is not fixed, and Congress can change it by passing an act that is then signed by the President. Article III, Section 1, starts with a broad direction to Congress to establish the court system: “The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.”

    All the Democrats need is to take back the majority in both Houses of Congress and have a Democrat in the White House.

    This has happened before:

    “In early 1837, President Andrew Jackson was able to add two additional Justices after Congress expanded the number of federal circuit court districts. Under different circumstances, Congress created the 10th Circuit in 1863 during the Civil War, and the Court briefly had 10 Justices. Congress then passed legislation in 1866 to reduce the Court to seven Justices. That only lasted until 1869, when a new Judiciary Act sponsored by Senator Lyman Trumbull put the number back to nine Justices, with six required at a sitting to form a quorum. (President Ulysses S. Grant eventually signed that legislation and nominated William Strong and Joseph Bradley to the newly restored seats.)”


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