Department of Commerce v. New York [SCOTUSbrief]
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Department of Commerce v. New York [SCOTUSbrief]


The parties in this case, on one side we have
the Department of Commerce, the Census Bureau, and Wilbur Ross, who’s the Secretary of Commerce. On the other side we have a group of states
led by New York, several major cities and counties, and a couple of different nonprofits. This case has two different issues. The first issue, broadly, is whether the Constitution
or any other law bars the US Secretary of Commerce from adding a question about citizenship
to the 2020 census. And then the second question is whether
the district court properly allowed the challengers in the case to seek discovery, additional
fact-finding, beyond the official administrative record, the record that the Secretary of Commerce
relied on when he decided to add the citizenship question to the census. The exact text of the question, the survey
that goes to each household, would ask about the various members of the household: is this
person a citizen of the United States? Then you’d check a box yes or no. So the origins of the question are really
the heart of the lawsuit. The Secretary of Commerce, the Department
of Commerce says that the question came from the Department of Justice, the Civil Rights
Division in particular, which says that it wants the data that it would get from asking
this question to better enforce the Federal Voting Rights Act. The challengers say that the decision to include
the citizenship question was part of an effort by the Trump administration to discriminate
against minorities by leading to an undercount of undocumented immigrants and minorities
in general, and that the rationale that the Justice Department wanted the information
is simply a pretext. The best argument for the Department of Commerce
is that it has very broad discretion when it’s deciding how to conduct the census, what
questions to include on the census, and that this question, or some form of this question,
has been on the census for many years without incident. Under the Constitution, Congress is actually
responsible for conducting the census, but Congress has delegated the responsibility
to the Secretary of Commerce in a law called the Census Act. There was a 1996 case that could affect the
outcome of this case in the Supreme Court, a case called Wisconsin versus New York, that
actually involved the enumeration clause. The question before the Supreme Court was
whether or not the Department of Commerce and the Census Bureau was required to use
a statistical method to correct an undercount in the census. And the Supreme Court concluded that
the Census Bureau was not required to use that correction. And more broadly, that the Census Bureau and
the Department of Commerce have fairly broad discretion in conducting the census. The best argument for New York is probably
that the Department of Commerce may well have broad discretion, but that there are, under
the Census Act, procedures that the Department of Commerce is supposed to follow, and that
it simply hasn’t followed them here. The actions of the Secretary of Commerce violated
the Administrative Procedure Act, in the sense that they were not in accordance with the
law under the Administrative Procedure Act. And there were two provisions of the Census
Act that they’re alleged to have violated. And the first is requirement that whenever
possible, the Secretary of Commerce get information from administrative records that are already
available, rather than asking direct questions on the census. And the second is a requirement under the
Census Act that the subject of different questions on the census be reported to Congress in advance,
and they say that the citizenship question wasn’t reported to Congress in advance.

6 Comments

  • Deron Thomas

    Undaument Criminal Alain have no right to vote and they don't have a right to be in this country . Their is no discrimination to Ilegal immigrants.

  • David Halseth

    Well, the Liberal Justices portend total meltdown for 22 million Illegal people. Well tough. The rule of law seems to mean nothing anymore. These four, obviously biased, are supposed to represent the preeminent amongst jurists. Nothing could be further from the truth. I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised but boy does it make you angry. Simply outrageous and disappointing.

    They are hiding now and may hide then. So what. If I'm breaking the law I'm hiding, pretty simple, again who with any common sense salys "who cares"!

    I love the SCOTUSBLOG srgument analysis, last paragraph, "…as a result, incliuding the citizenship question could lead to fewer members of Congress and less feferal funnding for states with lsrge populations of undocumented and Hispanic residents — many of which tend to skew Democrats." Well now there's a thought that brings joy to my heart!

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