The rightward shift of the Supreme Court with the addition of Brett Kavanaugh was amply demonstrated by the decision yesterday to shield Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross from being forced to testify in a lawsuit over his apparent perjury in front of Congress when being questioned over the decision to add a question about citizenship to the 2020 census. The decision was authored by Trump’s previous nominee to the court, Justice Neil Gorsuch, and joined by another arch-conservative, Justice Clarence Thomas.
The move was seen by many to be an omen of a Supreme Court that will act as a rubber stamp for the worst of President Trump’s policies as they continue to be challenged for violating laws, precedents, and the Constitution by citizens, progressive political groups, and state attorneys general.
Ross’s answers when he testified before a House committee earlier this year indicated that he wasn’t sure where the request to include a citizenship question came from but that neither he nor the White House was involved.
Emails released under court order in a suit filed by a coalition of immigrant rights groups, 17 states, Washington D.C. and six cities prove otherwise, revealing that former White House Senior Advisor Steve Bannon had requested that Ross include a question about citizenship status to the census form, pushing an idea that originated with the Republican Kansas Secretary of State and gubernatorial candidate, Kris Kobach.
According to the group challenging the White House’s census changes, the addition of a citizenship question would instill fear in already underrepresented minority and immigrant communities, suppressing their members’ participation in the census and depriving them of the much-needed federal funding that is determined by the census’ population counts.
“If implemented, this harmful and costly decision would have far reaching implications for Latinos and all Americans, depressing response rates and threatening the fair and equitable distribution of political representation and billions of dollars in federal funding,” Arturo Vargas, chief executive officer of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund, argued in a statement in August. “We will continue to fight against the addition of this question in both Congress and the courts.”
The same court that ordered the release of the incriminating emails also originally ruled that the Commerce Secretary would have to submit to a deposition in the case. The Trump administration, through Solicitor General Noel Francisco, appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court which blocked Ross from being required to sit for questioning, according to an article in Common Dreams.
The court did allow the group suing the administration to depose John Gore, the acting assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
“We welcome the Court’s decision to allow us to complete discovery in the case, with the exception only of Secretary Ross’ deposition, which remains on hold pending further briefing,” a spokesperson for New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood said in a statement. “We’ll get to the bottom of how the decision to demand citizenship status was made, as we continue our case to ensure a full and fair census.”
While the Supreme Court ruling does protect Wilbur Ross from being forced to testify in the legal challenge being brought by the plaintiffs seeking to remove the citizenship question from the census, his perjury in front of Congress can still be investigated by Congress itself, although that will be unlikely unless the Democrats win a majority in the upcoming midterms.
With the Supreme Court now being accused by political commentators of being “run by Republicans who want to help other Republicans rig the 2020 census so they can elect more Republicans,” your vote to elect a Democratic Congressional majority is all the more crucial. Vote in the upcoming midterms, and make sure everyone else you know votes too.
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