Local officials praise SCOTUS ruling against including citizenship question in 2020 Census

Victoria May

Both Travis County and Austin officials praised the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision to not include a citizenship question in the 2020 census, citing the financial security the ruling offers Texans.

Throughout the last year, the citizenship question was promoted by the Trump administration as a way to uphold the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to protect minority voters, according to the Austin Chronicle. In a decision made on June 27, the Supreme Court said the government had the right to ask people about their legal status, but Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for the majority, said the explanation “appears to have been contrived.”

Executive branch officials must “offer genuine justifications for important decisions, reasons that can be scrutinized by courts and the interested public,” Roberts Jr. wrote.

According to the Austin Chronicle, the omission of the citizenship question means Texas will not lose $43 billion of federal funding that helps support the state’s health care services, education, natural disaster aid and infrastructure.  “(The) Supreme Court ruling will enable a more accurate count of Texas residents in the 2020 U.S. census where even a 1% undercount could cost Texas $300M in crucial funding,” Mayor Steve Adler said in a tweet. “This ruling will help make every resident count.”

Nearly two million of the almost five million immigrants in Texas are undocumented, according to the American Immigration Council. The Supreme Court predicted the question could lead to an inaccurate representation of citizens because some immigrants may choose to forgo the census altogether to avoid potential prosecution.

“The many reasons Trump wants a citizenship question actually comes down to one: to increase the power of rural and more conservative areas with fewer noncitizens,” said Antonio Arellano, communications director of Jolt, a Latinx progressive organization. “But, we all count.”

Travis County GOP chairman Matt Mackowiak defended the question, saying it would not be used as a means to arrest undocumented immigrants.

“I thought it was really important for the government to make clear that the census was not going to be used for law enforcement purposes,” Mackowiak said in a statement. “The census is not whether you’re breaking the law or not. It’s about finding out demographic information, so we can understand how many people live in certain areas.”

President Donald Trump said he wanted to issue an executive order to add the citizenship question to the census, despite the Supreme Court ruling. Paper census forms — without the question — were printed less than a week ago.

“We are encouraged by (the) Supreme Court of the United States ruling,” Adler and Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt said in a joint statement. “Having unburdened the census from the repressive citizenship question, the City of Austin and Travis County can move forward with working to obtain as accurate of a count as possible.”