It hasn't happened since the 1950s, yet unsurprisingly the Trump administration wants to bring back a question for the 2020 US census asking whether respondents are US citizens.
Three federal judges have already blocked the plan, saying the Trump administration's rationale for bringing back the question—that it's necessary to ask people whether they're citizens in order to enforce the 1965 Voting Rights Act—is nonsense. ("A senior Justice Department official conceded in a sworn deposition last year that the data was not actually required," The New York Times notes.)
What no one seems to disagree on is that asking people about their citizenship status will lead to lower participation in the 2020 census—especially in urban centers, which could lead to states such as California losing Congressional representation. "There’s no doubt that people will respond less,” Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor said at today's Supreme Court hearing on the issue. But the court's conservative majority, according to reports, seems ready to let Trump ask a citizenship question anyway.
From The Washington Post:
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. noted that historically the census has asked far more than just where people live.
Justice Neil M. Gorsuch pointed out that the citizenship question was asked on the short form more times than it was not. Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh said that the United Nations advised that countries should ask such a question.
Gorsuch and Kavanaugh were appointed by Trump after Senate Republicans, led by Mitch McConnell, engineered a blockade of former President Obama's final Supreme Court pick, Merrick Garland.
Still not entirely sure why this is a big deal? Watch this:
It's from Ari Berman, author of Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America, who today tweeted this:
My quick takeaway from oral arguments in census case: same conservative justices who gutted Voting Rights Act now claim citizenship question needed to better enforce Voting Rights Act. What a farce. 5-4 decision upholding citizenship q would have devastating impact on democracy
— Ari Berman (@AriBerman) April 23, 2019