Southland elected officials and immigration-rights activists Thursday hailed a U.S. Supreme Court ruling blocking a citizenship question on the 2020 Census.
“This ruling is a victory for an accurate, comprehensive and complete Census count,” Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Los Angeles, said. “(President Donald) Trump is eager to silence the voices of vulnerable populations in our communities. That’s why he wanted a Census citizenship question that will dramatically undercount these populations.
“An accurate and complete 2020 Census is essential to ensuring our communities receive the federal funds we need for countless critical programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, school lunches, highway funding, housing assistance and more,” she said. “While the Court’s ruling is a victory for our nation, our House Democratic Majority will stay vigilant, and fight any further efforts to sabotage a fair and accurate 2020 Census.”
In a ruling by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who was joined by the court’s liberals, the court said the Trump administration did not adequately explain its reason for adding the question. The ruling included a direct rebuke to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who last year decided to add a citizenship question to all forms for the first time since 1950.
“Altogether, the evidence tells a story that does not match the explanation the secretary gave for his decision,” Roberts said.
The court sent the matter back to a lower court for review.
In January, U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman in New York blocked the citizenship question and issued a 277-page opinion describing how Ross had failed to follow the advice of census experts or explain his reasons for making a change that could lead to a severe undercount. Judges in San Francisco and Maryland handed down similar rulings.
The Supreme Court agreed to hear the administration’s appeal in the case of Department of Commerce vs. New York on a fast-track basis because the government said it needed to begin printing census forms this summer.
On Twitter, Trump blasted the ruling.
“Seems totally ridiculous that our government, and indeed country, cannot ask a basic question of citizenship in a very expensive, detailed and important census, in this case for 2020,” he wrote. “I have 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. Can anyone really believe that as a great country we are not able to ask whether or not someone is a citizen. Only in America!”
Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer said that although the Trump administration has the ability to provide in court a more robust reason adding the question, he said he doesn’t think it will convince the court to overturn the ruling.
“This Supreme Court led by its chief justice said … this was, essentially, a contrived rationale, and so it’s been sent back for another rationale,” Feuer said. “But here’s the thing: There is no other rationale. There is nothing else going on here but an attempt to marginalize Latinos throughout the United States to make sure their voices don’t count. That’s what this has been about since the inception of this question.”
Several Los Angeles-area leaders gathered at Grand Park in downtown to hail the ruling.
“Los Angeles County will continue to collaborate with our tribal, city leaders … and especially our school districts and many others to ensure everybody is counted,” County Supervisor Hilda Solis said.
Solis was joined by members of CHIRLA, the NALEO Educational Fund and the Advancement Project California in praising the decision.
“In light of today’s Supreme Court ruling, we all will stay determined and committed to a robust (census) outreach,” Solis said. “This ruling, as you know, will impact the lives of our most vulnerable.”
Solis said undocumented residents without full citizenship have been fearful of answering the question because it would require them to disclose their immigration status. The court’s decision comes just a few days after Trump pulled back the reins on another immigration sweep in major cities.
Without an accurate Census, it may be difficult to receive federal funding for programs that can serve the entirety of the need-based population, Solis said.
An undercount in the state could also lead to a loss of representation in Congress.
Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner called the court’s ruling “the right thing for public education.”
“The census is used to determine the amount of funding Los Angeles Unified receives from federal programs,” he said. “Los Angeles Unified received $328 million in Title I funding and nearly $40 million for other federal education and health programs for the 2017-2018 school year. If the question is eventually included, it could lead to a loss of as much as $20 million every year in Title I funding, which would pay for about 200 additional teachers in schools serving students with the highest needs.
“The citizenship question is not some abstract, legal issue. It has real consequences in our schools,” he said.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti was effusive.
`This is a hopeful day for our democracy. The census is the largest civic exercise in our country — an opportunity to show that everyone belongs here and everybody counts,” he said in a statement. “Instead, the administration tried to change who we are and write millions of people out of America’s story. Fortunately, the Supreme Court stopped this cynical ploy in its tracks, removing a major roadblock to participation in next year’s tally.”
Garcetti said he will work “to ensure that hard-to-count populations — immigrant households, communities of color, low-income residents, and our most vulnerable neighbors — and all Angelenos are counted in the 2020 Census.”
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