California Democrats who sued the Trump administration over its attempts to put a citizenship question on the census praised the Supreme Court’s ruling Thursday that kept the question on hold.
However, they also warned that the administration has already incited fear that will make it harder to count people in immigrant communities.
“The Trump administration has not been denied the fear and anxiety that he has caused and induced – and that is still very present,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said during a news conference.
The census is a count every 10 years of people living in the United States that’s used to determine how many seats in Congress and how much federal money each state gets.
The Trump administration wanted to add a citizenship question on the 2020 count. Opponents and the Census Bureau’s own experts said the move would prompt some immigrants not to fill out the form and lead to a massive undercount particularly in states such as California with large immigrant populations.
“It appears that we have defeated, at least for now, the Trump administration’s efforts to turn the census into the latest partisan political tool,” said California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, who is in charge of California’s efforts to administer the census.
California received about $77 billion in census-related funding in 2015, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.
Padilla said it will take a massive public awareness and outreach campaign — including reminders that the Census Bureau is supposed to keep individuals’ information confidential — to ensure California gets a complete count.
Newsom’s message to Californians was direct: “If you don’t participate, Trump wins,” he said. The census count begins on April 1.
California plans to spend $154 million on census outreach efforts through partnerships with community groups, schools, Native American tribes and non-English media. The state considers communities in large swaths of the agriculturally dominant Central Valley and Inland Empire “hard to count.”
The court’s 5-4 ruling, with the majority opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts, said the administration’s explanation for including the question was contrived.
The evidence, it said, didn’t support Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s explanation that a citizenship question would aid in enforcement of the Voting Rights Act.
The issue was sent back to a lower court.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said its conceivable the administration could try to write a new justification for the lower court, but other opponents of the question said the administration may have run out of time.
The Census Bureau did not immediately say if it would continue to pursue the question.
KATHLEEN RONAYNE, Associated Press