While some issues can be complicated — that’s no excuse for our side not even trying to explain simply and succinctly issues like Roberts vs Trump to a wider audience — here is Stephen B. Presser:
The difficulties President Trump faces in carrying out his agenda are massive and were underscored again by the last case decided this term by the United States Supreme Court. That case, Department of Commerce v. New York, presented a challenge to the Trump Administration’s plan to add a question about citizenship status to the 2020 census form.
The U.S. Constitution requires an “Enumeration” of the population every 10 years, to be made “in such Manner” as Congress “shall by Law direct.” These days, the census has at least two important effects. One is that the enumeration of persons residing in the United States determines the apportionment of representatives in the House, and the other is that it determines, to a great extent, the amount of federal funds that will be expended in each state.
The census, then, is a means of allocating political power and federal government resources. If there is an undercount, a state may end up losing power and wealth. Fearing that asking about citizenship status will result in an undercount of people living here illegally, Democrats challenged the right of the government to secure that information as part of the census. It is no secret that undocumented foreign nationals tend to cluster in urban areas, most often under Democratic Party control. So blue states feared the results of returning the citizenship question to the census.
As they have done with many policies of this administration, a coalition of progressives formed and brought actions challenging the citizenship question, alleging, among other things that it was an attempt at unlawful discrimination on the part of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. Finding a judge sympathetic to their views, as they are too frequently able, they were successful in a federal trial court in one of the bluest of the states, New York. Similar actions are underway in other federal courts, but it was hoped that the Supreme Court would resolve the issue one way or the other before the printing of the 2020 census forms, which could take place later this year.
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