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House gets its say as Supreme Court takes up census citizenship question

Todd Ruger, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in News & Features

The challengers argue that the question would deter households with noncitizens from participating in the census for fear that their information would be shared with other parts of the government, immigration authorities, for example. And a short count of noncitizens would harm communities with large numbers of immigrants and ultimately benefit Republicans.

A government witness testified in the case that a citizenship question would reduce census responses among noncitizen households by at least 5.8 percent, or about 6.5 million people, the New York Immigration Coalition told the justices in a brief.

The House is not a party in the case, but it says the Constitution gave Congress the duty to oversee the counting of "the whole persons in each State," and the Commerce Department departed from what Congress intended.

The attempt to add the question "outside the agency's ordinary processes and against the undisputed evidence that doing so would undermine the very purpose of the decennial census, the Department has disregarded both the substantive limitations and procedural safeguards that Congress created," the House told the justices in a brief.

The Supreme Court will make a decision by the end of June, which is not only when the current term ends but also the deadline for the government to finalize the census questionnaire.


House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler and ranking member Doug Collins wrote the Supreme Court asking for the release of an audio recording of the argument later the same day. The Supreme Court denied that request, which means the audio would be available Friday, April 26.

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