Updated: Austin attorney warns Trump’s anti-immigrant Census case may not be over

by | Jul 1, 2019 | Policy

Update 7/3: The Commerce Department, which is in charge of the Census, said on July 2 the citizenship question would not be included. Hours later Trump declares that statement out of his own administration “fake news.” He said they were “moving forward” with the question.

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court effectively blocked President Trump from including a citizenship question in the 2020 Census. It wasn’t hard to see the anti-immigrant fervor in Trump’s rationale for counting only citizens, as opposed to the entire U.S. population, as the law requires.

But an Austin lawyer who helped argue against the inclusion of the question on behalf of Harris County, Texas says we shouldn’t celebrate just yet.

“It could easily come back and be added,” Susan Hays, an attorney who co-wrote an amicus brief in Department of Commerce v. New York, told The Texas Signal.

Trump has asked, or at least he said he asked, for a delay on the Census.


Hayes said the citizenship question could return either through related litigation that may make its way to the Supreme Court, or last week’s case—  now in a lower court after being sent back by the Justices— could simply be reargued and re-appealed through an emergency motion before the deadline to send out the Census.

Hayes said that would be a disaster for the Lone Star State.

“It’s like kicking your entire governmental function in the kneecap,” Hays said, referring to the potential loss in federal funding and government representation for Texas (and all states).

Population figures from the Census are used to inform federal funding for state and local governments. They also determine the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“More than any other state, that question is going to hurt Texas,” Hays said.

Just a one percent undercount would rob Texas of almost $300 million a year in missed out federal funding, according to a study by George Washington University.

Duing her work on the Census case, Hays said she mapped out counties in Texas with the highest percentage of undocumented residents. Aside from large urban counties like Harris, many areas of west Texas also have a high population of undocumented immigrants— counties that have typically supported Republicans.

The Commerce Department says the Census must be printed by July 1, which has come and gone, to print the 600 million pages of the survey.  One senior census official has said the latest the forms can be printed can be October.

fernando@texassignal.com | + posts

Fernando covers Texas politics and government at the Texas Signal. Before joining the Signal, Fernando spent two years at the Houston Chronicle and previously interned at Houston’s NPR station News 88.7. He is a graduate of the University of Houston, Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, and enjoys reading, highlighting things, and arguing on social media. You can follow him on Twitter at @fernramirez93 or email at fernando@texassignal.com

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