WASHINGTON – In a 5-4 decision on Thursday, the Supreme Court temporarily blocked the implementation of a plan by the Trump administration to add a citizenship question to the 2020 U.S. Census.
Chief Justice John Roberts joined justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer in voting with the majority. Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch dissented from the majority opinion.
The high court rejected the administration’s argument for adding the question and sent the case back to lower courts for further review.
The decision comes just two weeks after the House Oversight and Reform Committee voted to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt for failing to turn over subpoenaed documents related to the addition of the question.
Prior to the vote, the Justice Department informed the committee that President Donald Trump had invoked executive privilege over the documents.
In March 2018, Ross told the committee the addition of the citizenship question to the Census would help to better enforce minority protections under the Voting Rights Act.
Ross said the question was added at the request of the Justice Department. However, the committee later received emails that reportedly showed that Ross had pushed for the addition of the question prior to the time he said DoJ had made the request.
In March 2019, Ross sought to clarify his earlier testimony, telling the committee he “never intentionally misled Congress or intentionally said anything incorrect under oath.”
Opponents of the citizenship question maintain it would discourage many Hispanics and undocumented residents from participating in the Census.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) reacted to the decision at her weekly news conference on Thursday, calling it a “mixed review.”
Pelosi said regardless of whether the question is placed on the Census , it is crucial that “the American people come forward and be counted.”