Expect 5-4 US Supreme Court Ruling On 2020 Census “Citizenship Question”

The United States Population Count, also known as the US Census, is taken every 10 years and is used to determine congressional representation, federal funding levels and much more.

With the 2020 census approaching, the State of New Mexico is taking steps to increase New Mexicans’ participation in the once-per-decade census and for good reasons on many levels.

During the last 2010 census, New Mexico had the nation’s second-lowest participation rate at 69%.

According to a recent Tax Foundation study, New Mexico is the third-most reliant state in the nation on federal funding, in terms of percentages of total state revenue.

New Mexico relies heavily on federal spending the federal government allocates approximately $7.8 billion annually in federal dollars from 16 programs, including money for Medicaid, food stamps, early childhood education and road repairs.

The University of New Mexico Geospatial and Population Studies program is the state’s designated demographer for the coming census.

According to Robert Rhatigan, the associate director of UNM’s, Geospatial and Population Studies program every household that is not counted in the census represents a loss of about $100,000 in federal funding for the state.

A major problem with the United States Census for New Mexico is that an estimated 43% of the state’s nearly 2.1 million residents live in “hard to count” areas.

On April 24, 2019, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announce the creation of the “Complete Count Commission” that will work with immigrant rights groups and tribal representatives in an attempt to increase the federal census participation rates in hard-to-count areas, especially rural and very hard to reach areas of the state.

The appointed “Complete Count Commission” will have up to 40 members and consist of cabinet secretaries, legislators, business leaders, tribal representatives and members of community-based organizations.

The commission has already been allocated $3.5 million for operation costs by the 2019 New Mexico legislature.

The money allocated is for a census-targeted marketing campaign but the Governor had requested even more money from lawmakers, and she said that she might ask for more.

To complicate matters, President Donald Trump’s Administration is seeking to add a “citizenship question” to the 2020 census forms where people questioned will be asked if they are a citizen of the United States or a citizen of another country.

On April 23, 2019 the United States Supreme Court held oral arguments after multiple lawsuits were filed in an attempt to block the administration’s plans to include a citizenship question.

During the press conference announcing the census commission, Governor Lujan Grisham, who is also and attorney, said “I think it’s unconstitutional to add that question.”

Notwithstanding, the Governor said state officials will work to build confidence in participating in the census regardless of how the Supreme Court’s rules.



On April 24, 2019, the Associated Press Reported that the Supreme Court’s conservative majority seemed ready to uphold the Trump administration’s plan to ask about citizenship on the 2020 census, despite evidence that millions of Hispanics and immigrants could go uncounted.

Relevant portions of the Associated Press report followed by a link are as follows:

“There appeared to be a clear divide between the court’s liberal and conservative justices in arguments in a case that could affect how many seats states have in the House of Representatives and their share of federal dollars over the next 10 years. States with a large number of immigrants tend to vote Democratic.”

“Three lower courts have so far blocked the plan to ask every U.S. resident about citizenship in the census, finding that the question would discourage many immigrants from being counted. Two of the three judges also ruled that asking if people are citizens would violate the provision of the Constitution that calls for a count of the population, regardless of citizenship status, every 10 years. The last time the question was included on the census form sent to every American household was 1950.”

“But over 80 minutes in a packed courtroom, the conservative justices did not appear to share the concern of the lower court judges.”

“Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the court’s newest member and an appointee of President Donald Trump, suggested Congress could change the law if it so concerned that the accuracy of the once-a-decade population count will suffer. “Why doesn’t Congress prohibit the asking of the citizenship question?” Kavanaugh asked near the end of the morning session.”

“Kavanaugh and the other conservatives were mostly silent when Solicitor General Noel Francisco, the administration’s top Supreme Court lawyer, defended Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’ decision to add the citizenship question. Ross has said the Justice Department wanted the citizenship data, the detailed information it would produce on where eligible voters live, to improve enforcement of the Voting Rights Act.”

“Lower courts found that Ross’ explanation was a pretext for adding the question, noting that he had consulted early in his tenure with Stephen Bannon, Trump’s former top political adviser and immigration hardliner Kris Kobach, the former Kansas secretary of state.”

“The liberal justices peppered Francisco with questions about the administration plan, but they would lack the votes to stop it without support from at least one conservative justice.”

“This is a solution in search of a problem,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the court’s lone Hispanic member, said of Ross’ decision.

“Justice Elena Kagan chimed in that “you can’t read this record without sensing that this need was a contrived one.”

“Chief Justice John Roberts appeared to have a different view of the information the citizenship question would produce.”

“You think it wouldn’t help voting rights enforcement?” Roberts asked New York Solicitor General Barbara Underwood, who was representing states and cities that sued over Ross’ decision.”

“Underwood said the evidence Ross had before him was “that it would not give better citizenship information.”

“And, Underwood said, the record is clear that a census that asks people if they are citizens will be less accurate.”

“Census Bureau experts have concluded that the census would produce a more accurate picture of the U.S. population without a citizenship question because people might be reluctant to say if they or others in their households are not citizens. Federal law requires people to complete the census accurately and fully.”

“Justice Neil Gorsuch, also a Trump appointee, also noted that many other countries include citizenship questions on their censuses.”

“Douglas Letter, a lawyer representing the House of Representatives, said the census is critically important to the House, which apportions its seats among the states based on the results.

“Anything that undermines the accuracy of the actual enumeration is immediately a problem,” Letter said, quoting from the provision of the Constitution that mandates a decennial census.”

Following is the link to the full article:



The 10-year United States Census is something that the New Mexico Legislature needs to ensure that all New Mexico residents are counted and it should not hesitate for a split second to allocate sufficient funding for the Complete Count Commission. Way too much is at stake.

There is no doubt the “citizenship question” has a sinister intent directed at undocumented immigrants who have been in the United State for any length of time, whether it be a day, days, months or even years.

The Trump administration wants to have a “chilling effect” on the census count and cause both citizens and non-citizens living in New Mexico to believe the census data might be misused to target minorities.

No doubt Trump wants to make sure that States like New Mexico do not get critical funding that will go to assist undocumented immigrants and probably the “minority-majority” state of New Mexico.

Many national Supreme Court observers and analysts are predicting that the United States Supreme Court will not go along with the “citizenship question”.

The United States Supreme Court is now in total and complete control by the hard right as a result of Trump’s appointments.

No one should be surprised if the Supreme Court ruling will be 5 to 4 to include the question with Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts once again being the swing vote.

New Mexico, place your bets and hope for the best but do not be surprised if we get the worst in the age of the Trump Administration and from his Supreme Court.

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Pete Dinelli was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is of Italian and Hispanic descent. He is a 1970 graduate of Del Norte High School, a 1974 graduate of Eastern New Mexico University with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and a 1977 graduate of St. Mary's School of Law, San Antonio, Texas. Pete has a 40 year history of community involvement and service as an elected and appointed official and as a practicing attorney in Albuquerque. Pete and his wife Betty Case Dinelli have been married since 1984 and they have two adult sons, Mark, who is an attorney and George, who is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Pete has been a licensed New Mexico attorney since 1978. Pete has over 27 years of municipal and state government service. Pete’s service to Albuquerque has been extensive. He has been an elected Albuquerque City Councilor, serving as Vice President. He has served as a Worker’s Compensation Judge with Statewide jurisdiction. Pete has been a prosecutor for 15 years and has served as a Bernalillo County Chief Deputy District Attorney, as an Assistant Attorney General and Assistant District Attorney and as a Deputy City Attorney. For eight years, Pete was employed with the City of Albuquerque both as a Deputy City Attorney and Chief Public Safety Officer overseeing the city departments of police, fire, 911 emergency call center and the emergency operations center. While with the City of Albuquerque Legal Department, Pete served as Director of the Safe City Strike Force and Interim Director of the 911 Emergency Operations Center. Pete’s community involvement includes being a past President of the Albuquerque Kiwanis Club, past President of the Our Lady of Fatima School Board, and Board of Directors of the Albuquerque Museum Foundation.