Capitol Alert

Rapid Response: Supreme Court’s census ruling

This is what the 2020 census means for Californians

The next U.S. census begins in 2020. It will help determine political representation in Congress and in the California Legislature.
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The next U.S. census begins in 2020. It will help determine political representation in Congress and in the California Legislature.

In a narrow 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court rejected the Trump administration’s argument for including a citizenship question in the 2020 U.S. Census and sent the case back to a lower court. It remains unclear whether there’s now enough time for the administration to advance another argument.

The news is considered a victory for California, which had feared a citizenship question would lead to a statewide undercount, as immigrants and residents in hard-to-count communities wouldn’t take the decennial survey. An undercount could cause the state to lose representation in Congress and an estimated $2,000 in federal funding for each person who refuses to participate in the Census.

Writing the majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts called the Trump administration’s motives for adding the question “contrived.”

“It is rare to review a record as extensive as the one before us when evaluating informal agency action— and it should be,” Roberts added. “But having done so for the sufficient reasons we have explained, we cannot ignore the disconnect between the decision made and the explanation given.

Here’s how some California leaders are reacting:

Gov. Gavin Newsom

“Regardless of the decision that came down, we were not waiting by passively. ... The damage has been done, regardless of the decision today. This has been delayed, but the Trump administration has not been denied the fear and anxiety that he has caused and induced and that is still very present in society today.”

“If you don’t participate in the Census, Trump wins. It’s as clear as that. We are going to make sure that we run an unprecedented campaign to make sure we touch every corner of this state.”

State Attorney General Xavier Becerra

“It’s conceivable the Census Bureau will attempt to do this again. ...

“You can’t hide behind flimsy reasoning to do something that could harm the people of this country. The Supreme Court said in a more eloquent way what Ricky Ricardo said to Lucy: ‘You got some splainin’ to do.’”

U.S. Sen Dianne Feinstein

“I’m pleased the court rejected the administration’s rationale for adding the question. However, the court’s conservative majority overlooked clear evidence that adding a citizenship question would discourage census participation in immigrant communities and communities of color, and I’m concerned what that will mean for future rulings.

“The Constitution calls for an accurate count of ALL individuals living in the United States. A Census Bureau report found that adding the citizenship question could result in an up to 8 percent undercount – such a result would affect everything from voting representation to federal funding for infrastructure, schools and safety-net programs – which would be particularly harmful to diverse states like California.

“I hope the administration will abandon this partisan endeavor and instead work with Congress and the states to maximize responses to the census to ensure a fair and accurate count of everyone living in the United States.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

“We have to make sure whether that question is on there or not, and I certainly hope it is not, but whether it’s on there or not, that the American people come forward and be counted. It would be a sad occurrence if people said, ‘Well, since that’s on there, I’m not going to be counted.’ It means so much in terms of who we are as a nation.”

U.S. Rep. Josh Harder, D-Turlock

“I’m cautiously optimistic about the Census ruling. The stakes are very high for us – adding this question could end up costing the Central Valley millions of dollars a year in lost federal investments for our roads, health care systems, and schools.

“The scheme to rig the census was cooked up by the same corrupt political insider who was called the Michelangelo of gerrymandering. It’s a political move and for now, it seems that the Supreme Court has acknowledged that fact. I voted to stop this nonsense in Congress and I’ll continue watching this case as it is argued in lower courts.”

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood

“The decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census was always a partisan scheme. While the Trump administration continues to exercise amoral executive excess, it is a relief to see the Supreme Court grabbing the reins granted by the Constitution. This does not change our will to count every person, because the people who live here ARE California. It is critical that we continue to stress the anonymity of 2020 Census answers and the importance of filling out the forms completely.”

Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, D-San Diego

“Today’s decision by the United States Supreme Court affirms what we have known from the start: this Administration’s story on why it needed to add a citizenship question and thus silence the voices of millions of those in marginalized communities by inserting fear was a sham.

“While we have been handed a partial victory today, I’m disappointed that the Court believes that we don’t need to count all of our residents.

“In California, we will continue to work to secure adequate funding to ensure a complete count, and we are working with community advocates to make sure hard-to-reach communities are participating and hope that our courts see what we all see: this Administration will say and do anything to distort an accurate and complete count.”

Secretary of State Alex Padilla

“SCOTUS just ruled against Trump, refusing to uphold the administration’s effort to add a citizenship question to the Census. This is an important victory for democracy, the Constitution, and diverse communities across the nation. The citizenship question ruling thwarts the desire of Trump and Republican leaders to turn the Census into another one of their partisan political tools and erode yet another pillar of American democracy.”

U.S. Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento

“Adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census was another in a long line of attempts to intimidate immigrant families. We all deserve to be counted, and we all deserve to live free from fear. States like California embrace immigrant communities with open arms, and ensuring they, too, are counted means more money for schools, hospitals, and transportation projects.

“I am extremely pleased that the Supreme Court sided with our most vulnerable and historically underrepresented communities, and I look forward to working with the Census Bureau, the State of California, and the County of Sacramento to ensure all in our community are counted.”

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez D-San Diego

“This is good for today, but the evidence is clear: The Trump administration is trying to add the citizenship question to the census to intimidate our immigrant communities.”

Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California

“Today’s decision reaffirms the clear ‘disconnect’ between the Trump-Pence Administration’s ‘contrived’ public explanations for the citizenship question and the political motivations they’ve discussed behind closed doors. We are hopeful that with additional time, more evidence of the Administration’s dangerous attempts to undermine a fair and accurate count for political purposes will come to light.

“But regardless of the ultimate outcome of this case, there is too much at stake for the LGBTQ community — and the diverse communities to which we belong — to allow for an unfair, inaccurate count in 2020. We will not be intimidated. We will be counted. And we will continue to resist attempts by the Trump-Pence Administration to target our immigrant communities, communities of color and the LGBTQ community.”

Janet Murguía, president and CEO of UnidosUS

“UnidosUS commends the Supreme Court’s ruling to uphold the Census’s constitutional mandate to count every person living in the United States. This decision places pressure on the U.S. Census Bureau to provide additional rationale for one of the most dishonest and racially motivated attempts yet by the Trump administration to deprive communities of color, and specifically Latinos, of our rightful place in this country’s political process.

“We remain vigilant as we know that there is still much more work ahead to ensure a true count of all communities. We and our Affiliate Network of community-based organizations throughout the country are ready to redouble our efforts in marginalized and hard-to-count communities. We want every single person living in America—no matter their race, immigration or citizenship status—to be counted in this important process that determines many critical community services such as schools, hospitals, roads and congressional representation.”

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo

“Today, while we applaud the Supreme Court’s recognition that this Administration has offered only ‘contrived’ explanations for its discriminatory census policy, it appears too soon to celebrate. We await further proceedings to know whether this nation’s courts will ultimately affirm the fundamental principle that we have long embraced in San Jose: Everyone counts.

“The Trump Administration must not succeed in its efforts to depress participation in the 2020 Census by stoking fear in our immigrant community. The impacts are severe—artificially reducing California’s representation in Congress, and slashing critical funding for the essential services—such as healthcare, housing, and education—upon which all our residents depend.”

U.S. Rep. Harley Rouda, D-Newport Beach

“In a victory for the founding principles of our democracy, the Supreme Court blocked the Trump administration’s inclusion of a so-called citizenship question, a pretext for political tampering with the U.S. Census. We already know who in the United States is a citizen through administrative data. The real aim of the question was to advantage one party in elections at the expense of representation for Americans like my constituents of Vietnamese and Latino heritage in Orange County. The strategy also would have decimated access to federal funding for critical health care, housing, and infrastructure programs in the region.

“But the court did not shut the door on this strategy altogether. We must keep guard against any further efforts of political tampering, and exercise the necessary oversight of the census to ensure an accurate count of our population, as the framers envisioned.”

Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks, D-Oakland

“ADDENDUM: this breaking news from SCOTUS is a good way to start the day. ‘Supreme Court blocks 2020 census citizenship question’”

U.S. Rep. Jimmy Gomez, D-Los Angeles

“While today’s Supreme Court decision might feel like an outright victory, it’s important to recognize that the battle over the addition of this citizenship question is far from over. If added to the 2020 Census, it would not only corrupt the integrity and accuracy of this process, but it also will – by design – silence the voices of immigrant communities, robbing them of critical federal funding for public services like education and healthcare. As we move to the next phase in this ongoing fight, my office will continue working with partners on the local, state, and federal level to ensure everyone is counted and secure the critical resources our communities need and deserve.”

State Sen. Henry Stern, D-Los Angeles

Democracy won today with Supreme Court’s refusal to approve citizenship question on 2020 census. Chief Justice Roberts upheld the basic human (and constitutional) truth that a person is a person no matter where they come from.”

State Sen. María Elena Durazo, D-Los Angeles

“Today is a win for all of those who feared being counted because of their citizenship status, but we must continue to be vigilant on this issue. Everyone must be counted to ensure we are rightfully receive funds and are appropriately represented.”

Assemblyman Marc Berman, D-Palo Alto

“This morning was a short-term victory by the Supreme Court regarding the citizenship question on the Census. The question is off for now. No matter what, the work continues to make sure everyone in California gets counted.”

Assemblyman Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg

“Big news for the integrity of the Census: The Supreme Court has just dealt the Trump administration a huge defeat by tossing out the citizenship question. This potential question would have depressed responses across America.”

An Le, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-LA

“We applaud today’s recognition that the Census Bureau was untruthful in its rationale for adding the untested and unnecessary question. Today’s decision affirms that we all matter. Our communities cannot be erased -- we are here to be counted.”

Julia Marks, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-ALC

“We are pleased that the Supreme Court saw through the Trump Administration’s claim that the citizenship question was added to promote voting rights. It was actually designed to intimidate and discriminate against communities of color.

“It’s up to us to continue to fight against future efforts to include a citizenship question and to ensure that we, our friends, our families, and communities participate in the census and get counted”

Jacqueline Martinez Garcel, CEO of Latino Community Foundation

“The decision by the U.S. Supreme Court is a temporary win for our democracy. The census is one of the main pillars of our nation’s constitution that guards the fair and equal representation of every person living in the United States.


“The Latino Community Foundation and its network of grassroots organizations will continue to work diligently on the ground to ensure we meet this responsibility stated clearly in our constitution: every person, every 10 years will be counted.


“Our commitment to fill out the Census is a fight for human dignity. Latinos are vital to the moral, economic, and social fabric of this country, and we must use that power by claiming our existence on the next census.


“The Latino Community Foundation is already mobilizing and investing in our network of 300+ Latino-led organizations across California to get us ready for 2020!”

Bryan Anderson is a political reporter for The Bee. He covers the California Legislature and reports on wildfires and transportation. He also hosts The Bee’s “California Nation” podcast.

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