The Supreme Court announced Friday it will grant an expedited hearing on the Trump administration’s request to add a question concerning citizenship to the 2020 census.
The justices set oral arguments for February, converting what had been a narrow request involving one part of the case into a full grant of review.
At stake is one of President Trump’s key goals — asking people to disclose their citizenship when they take part in the 2020 count.
Anti-Trump state attorneys general and immigrant-rights groups sued to stop the question, arguing it will scare immigrants away from taking part in the census, skewing the count.
That, they say, will mean some states won’t get the congressional representation nor federal money they are entitled to.
A federal judge in New York has ruled that asking the question isn’t inherently illegal: Indeed, it was part of censuses up to 1950, and is still asked by the Census Bureau to some smaller sample sizes.
But the judge questioned the motives of the Trump administration in asking it.
The case appears to come down to a parsing of words of Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross Jr., who said he made the decision to add a citizenship question, dismissing advice of some top aides, “solely” because of a request by the Justice Department.
Mr. Ross has since acknowledged also talking to a top White House official and others about the move even before the Justice Department request.
But government lawyers say his statement was accurate — it was the Justice Department request that he was responding to.
Solicitor General Noel Francisco said the case is a test of whether the courts will grant Mr. Trump the assumption of regularity judges are supposed to give to an administration, not automatically assuming shenanigans or “bad faith.”
Immigrant-rights groups are wary of a loss at the high court.
“Census data is pivotal in the allocation of billions of dollars in federal funds and the apportionment of political representation, making the proposed citizenship question a critical issue for Latinos and all Americans,” said the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.
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