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The Bible and Public Policy

It's Happening: President Trump Set to Take Executive Action on Census Citizenship Question

President Trump will reportedly take executive action to include a question about citizenship on the 2020 census. He is expected to make the announcement and provide details Thursday afternoon at the White House.


The move comes after a judge blocked Attorney General Bill Barr from switching out the legal team that worked on the case presented to the Supreme Court. The Court ruled 5-4 that although including the question is legal, government attorneys did not adequately explain why it was being included. 

The Court did not find the question to be a violation of the law, but instead didn't receive enough information from the Commerce Department and Secretary Wilbur Ross to make a decision. This leaves the door open for the citizenship question to be included on the census in the future.

"The Secretary’s decision to reinstate a citizenship question  is  amenable  to  review  for  compliance  with  those  and  other  provisions  of  the  Census  Act,  according  to  the  general   requirements   of   reasoned   agency   decision making,"Roberts wrote in his opinion. "At  the  heart  of  this  suit  is  respondents’  claim  that  the  Secretary  abused  his  discretion  in  deciding  to  reinstate  a  citizenship question."

"Altogether,  the  evidence  tells  a  story  that  does  not  match the explanation the Secretary gave for his decision," he continued. "Altogether,  the  evidence  tells  a  story  that  does  not  match the explanation the Secretary gave for his decision.  In the Secretary’s telling, Commerce was simply acting on a  routine  data  request  from  another  agency."


Conservative Supreme Court justices strongly rejected the majority's opinion in the case. 

"The  Court’s erroneous decision in this  case is bad enough, as it unjustifiably interferes with the 2020 census.  But the implications of today’s decision are broader.  With today’s  decision,  the  Court  has  opened  a  Pandora’s  box  of  pretext-based challenges in administrative law," they wrote. "In short, today’s decision is a departure from traditional principles of administrative law.  Hopefully it comes to be understood  as  an  aberration—a  ticket  good  for  this  day  and this train only," Justices Clarence Thomas, Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch argued in their dissent. "Because  the  Secretary’s  decision  to  reinstate  a  citizenship question on the 2020 census was legally sound and a reasoned  exercise of his broad discretion, I respectfully dissent from Part V of the opinion of the Court." 

The Trump administration is up against a census printing deadline and likely doesn't have enough time to re-litigate the issue in court.


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