OAKLAND, CA — Oakland will continue its legal fight against the addition of a citizenship status question to the 2020 census, City Attorney Barbara J. Parker said today.
On June 27, the United States Supreme Court blocked the Trump administration’s attempt to add the citizenship question to the 2020 census, ruling that the administration’s rationale for including it on the census was dishonest and “contrived.”
Oakland and a number of other cities and states across the country sued to stop the addition of the question. Experts, including the U.S. Census Bureau, said the question would discourage noncitizens, their family members and others from participating in the census, and would significantly undercount residents of states like California with large immigrant populations.
“The Supreme Court’s ruling is an important victory for democracy – and reminds us why we must continue to fight this administration’s efforts to undermine it,” City Attorney Parker said. “Not only was the attempt to add a citizenship question unconstitutional, it was a transparent attempt to undercount and thereby disenfranchise millions of American citizens across the country to tip the scale in favor of Republicans and whites. Yet again, this administration has shown that it will stop at nothing to trample the rights of immigrants, their U.S. citizen family members and all Americans across the political spectrum who live in states like California with large immigrant populations.”
The Trump administration argued that the citizenship question would help to improve enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. Despite the Supreme Court’s ruling that the rationale for the question was not credible, Trump said the administration would move forward with a separate action to implement the census question, and concoct a new bogus rationale to justify it.
“Judges rightly found that the administration’s original rationale was utterly dishonest and contrived,” City Attorney Parker said. “Of course, the fact that the administration says it will come up with a new rationale to justify its prior actions is proof that the original rationale was a pretext, and that any new rationale likewise will be an obvious pretext. We may not be able to anticipate today how this chaotic and lawless administration will proceed from day to day, but this case and others demonstrate the Trump administration’s dishonesty has been its own undoing.”
The Constitution mandates that the federal government conduct a census every ten years to determine an accurate population count of individuals – regardless of citizenship status. The national census has not included a citizenship question since 1950.
Experts including the U.S. Census Bureau itself said that inclusion of a citizenship question on the Census would discourage noncitizens, their family members and others from participating in the Census, and would significantly undercount residents of states like California with large immigrant populations.
The resulting undercount would jeopardize at least one of California’s seats in Congress and billions of dollars in federal funds to which California is entitled for fire prevention, disaster relief, infrastructure and other critical needs.
Almost 11 million immigrants are living in the U.S. without legal permission (the lowest level since 2003), according to the Center for Migration Studies. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that at least 630,000 households would refuse to fill out the census if it includes a citizenship question.
In fact, that was the whole point, according to material found on the hard drives of deceased Republican operative Thomas Hofeller, an architect of the government’s attempt to add the question. Hofeller wrote that adding the question would allow for even more extreme gerrymandering and “would be advantageous to Republicans and non-Hispanic whites.”
Oakland is a plaintiff in one of several lawsuits that challenged the addition of the question. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed the lawsuit on March 26, 2018. Los Angeles County, the Los Angeles Unified School District and the cities of Oakland, Fremont, Stockton, Los Angeles and Long Beach joined as plaintiffs.
The Supreme Court ruling addressed two separate lawsuits that were consolidated in New York: one filed by a group of states, counties and cities including San Francisco, and one filed by non-governmental organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union.
In March, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California also blocked the question in the case filed by California and Oakland. “In short, the inclusion of the citizenship question on the 2020 Census threatens the very foundation of our democratic system,” Judge Richard Seeborg declared in his ruling. Judge Seeborg also wrote that including a citizenship question would violate the U.S. Constitution in that it “is fundamentally counterproductive to the goal of obtaining accurate citizenship data about the public.”