WASHINGTON (WPRI/AP) — Days after the U.S. Supreme Court halted the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, the U.S. Census Bureau on Tuesday started printing the questionnaire without the controversial query.
Trump administration attorneys notified parties in lawsuits challenging the question that the printing of the hundreds of millions of documents for the 2020 counts had started, said Kristen Clarke, executive director of the National Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
Justice Department spokeswoman Kelly Laco confirmed there would be “no citizenship question on 2020 census.”
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said that while he respected the Supreme Court’s decision, he strongly disagreed with it.
“The Census Bureau has started the process of printing the decennial questionnaires without the question,” Ross said in a statement. “My focus, and that of the Bureau and the entire Department is to conduct a complete and accurate census.”
President Donald Trump had said after the high court’s decision last week that he would ask his attorneys about possibly delaying next spring’s decennial census, raising questions about whether printing of the census materials would start as planned this month.
“The Supreme Court’s ruling left little opportunity for the administration to cure the defects with its decision to add a citizenship question and, most importantly, they were simply out of time given the deadline for printing forms,” Clarke said in an email.
Opponents of the citizenship question said it would discourage participation by immigrants and residents who are in the country illegally, potentially providing inaccurate figures for a count that determines the distribution of some $675 billion in federal spending and how many congressional districts each state gets.
“Everyone in America counts in the census, and today’s decision means we all will,” said Dale Ho, who argued the Supreme Court case as director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Voting Rights Project.
A spokesperson for Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha sent the following statement in response:
“Inclusion of the citizenship question was never anything more than a veiled attempt to suppress participation. We will continue to vigilantly monitor the process as it goes forward and work with other stakeholders to ensure that every Rhode Islander is counted.”
Rodrigo Pimentel, of East Providence, is a DACA recipient who came to the United States from Portugal with his parents when he was 10 months old.
“Finally, we will have a census that is fair, that will include all Rhode Island residents, and all resident of the US despite their immigration status,” Pimentel said.
Pimentel said he believes the citizenship status question on the census would have led to many people choosing not to fill it out.
“This means we could lose federal dollars or lose representation in Congress,” he said. “Dreamers and undocumented immigrants, we’re Rhode Islanders like everyone else. We contribute to our state. We pay taxes to our state. We live normal lives. We are here to be with our families and friends and to pursue our dreams just like everyone else.”
Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin is also welcoming the decision to not include the citizenship question.
Galvin has argued that the question could discourage residents of Massachusetts who aren’t citizens from responding to the questionnaire – which could depress the state’s population count.
He said he’s still worried that all the attention given to the citizenship question could still keep non-citizens from being counted.