Herrera statement on Supreme Court ruling in census case

‘Under the Constitution, the census is supposed to count everyone in the country. It is about facts, not partisanship.’

City Attorney Dennis Herrera

SAN FRANCISCO (June 27, 2019) — City Attorney Dennis Herrera issued the following statement after the U.S. Supreme Court today blocked the Trump administration from adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census for now. San Francisco is part of the coalition that filed the case:

“This decision is a triumph for all Americans and the rule of law. The administration’s question was designed to skew the census and undercount the population in a way that benefited Trump’s agenda, no matter the cost. As the court held, there was a ‘significant mismatch’ between the administration’s decision and its explanation for its decision, and that the explanation to the public ‘seems to have been contrived.’ That is not how a democracy is supposed to work. The law requires the administration to state the real reason for its actions, for the benefit of public scrutiny. I’m pleased the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court in preventing this attempt to add the question.”

“Under the Constitution, the census is supposed to count everyone in the country. It is about facts, not partisanship. The census is an invaluable tool that underpins our democracy. It is also used to distribute hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpayer funds for things like health care, transportation and school lunches. Millions of hardworking Americans across the country would have been hurt if the Trump administration had succeeded. I want to thank New York Attorney General Letitia James for leading this fight. I also want to thank all of those who stood with us, like the ACLU. I am proud to have been part of the coalition of cities, counties, states and advocates that stood up and defeated this cynical attack on immigrants.”

Case Background

A coalition led by the State of New York that included San Francisco, five other cities, 17 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Conference of Mayors took the Trump administration to court on April 3, 2018 to prevent the inclusion of a citizenship question on the 2020 U.S. census that would undermine the census’ accuracy. Later, four other cities, four counties and another state joined the coalition. A number of nonprofits also sued the Trump administration over the same issue.

Since at least 1980, the Census Bureau, under both Democratic and Republican administrations, has taken the position that inquiries about citizenship on the census would jeopardize the overall accuracy of the population count, including undercounting legal immigrants in the United States.

The census is used to allocate seats in the House of Representatives, determine the number of electors to the Electoral College, draw state and local electoral districts, and distribute hundreds of billions of dollars in federal grant funds to states, local governments and other grantees.  Federal researchers found that in fiscal year 2015 more than 130 programs used Census Bureau data to distribute more than $675 billion in funds for things like Medicaid, transportation projects, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and the National School Lunch Program.

On Jan. 15, 2019, a federal judge in New York ruled against the Trump administration’s decision, blocking them from adding the citizenship question. The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case on April 23, 2019.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit are the cities of San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Providence, Philadelphia, Seattle, Phoenix, Central Falls, Columbus and Pittsburgh; counties of Cameron, El Paso, Hidalgo and Monterey; the states of New York, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington; the District of Columbia; and the bipartisan U.S. Conference of Mayors.

The case is: State of New York et al. v. U.S. Department of Commerce et al., U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York case No. 1:18-cv-02921, filed April 3, 2018. Additional documentation from the case is available on the City Attorney’s website at: sfcityattorney.org.