Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Supreme Court hears census citizenship-question case; data show immigration boosts many rural counties

Counties where immigration prevented or minimized population loss (Stateline map based on U.S. Census Bureau data; click the image to enlarge it or click here for the interactive version)
Immigrants prevented or minimized population loss in a fifth of U.S. counties last year, and many of those are rural counties with agricultural or manufacturing jobs, Tim Henderson reports for Stateline. But some of those folks are unlikely to be counted in the 2020 census if the Supreme Court allows the Trump administration to add a question about citizenship to the questionnaire.

After hearing almost 90 minutes of oral arguments, the court's "conservative majority seemed willing Tuesday to defer" to the change, "despite evidence it could lead to an undercount of millions of people," Robert Barnes and Mark Berman report for The Washington Post.

The Census Bureau has estimated that asking whether respondents are citizens will result in about 6.5 million fewer people being counted, and would most affect states and urban areas with a lot of Hispanics and immigrants, which tend to vote Democratic, Barnes and Berman report.

"That could reduce Democratic representation when congressional districts are allocated in 2021 and affect how hundreds of billions of dollars in federal spending are distributed," Adam Liptak reports for The New York Times. "Courts have also found that Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, New York and Texas could risk losing seats in the House, and that several states could lose federal money."

"Every lower-court judge to consider the issue found that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross violated federal law and regulations in attempting to include the question on the census," Barnes and Berman report. "The lower-court judges starkly rebutted Ross’s claim that the information was requested by the Justice Department to enforce the Voting Rights Act, which protects minorities, and they noted his consultations with hard-line immigration advocates in the White House beforehand."

The Supreme Court's more liberal judges, Elena Kagan, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, seemed skeptical about the citizenship question, and indicated during oral arguments that they were worried the question would reduce compliance and result in less-accurate data. Meanwhile, "three of the court’s conservatives — Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Neil M. Gorsuch — indicated in an earlier iteration of the case that they were uncomfortable with the judicial branch playing a deciding role in which questions were asked or deleted," Barnes and Berman report.

"The challengers’ best hopes seem to be in persuading either Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. or Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, Trump’s most recent nominee to the court, to uphold the lower courts’ decisions. But both seemed more accepting of" the administration's arguments, Barnes and Berman report. The court is expected to announce its decision in late June.

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