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Breaking News. WASHINGTON — The United States Supreme Court put on hold a lower federal court’s order on Tuesday afternoon, effectively allowing the Trump administration to stop the 2020 Census count now.

The Trump administration sought emergency relief from the nation’s highest court after U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh of the Northern District of California issued late last month a preliminary injunction that requires the 2020 census count to continue in order to ensure all United States residents are reached and counted.

In her ruling, Koh found that the Census Bureau’s Sept. 30 deadline would likely produce an inaccurate count, particularly among historically undercounted groups, such as American Indians and Alaska Natives.

The Navajo Nation joined the lawsuit that was argued before Koh’s court. The Navajo Nation, which has been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, said it needs the month of October to ensure more of its citizens are counted.

"The coronavirus pandemic has set all of us back and created many challenges to get people counted, especially for rural areas such as the Navajo Nation," said Jonathan Nez, President of the Navajo Nation, after Koh’s ruling last month.

A U.S. Appeals Court upheld Koh’s decision. The Trump administration’s Justice Department filed an emergency stay with the Supreme Court.

Tuesday’s ruling by the Supreme Court offered no explanation for the decision. Only Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued a written dissent.

“The harms caused by rushing this year’s census count are irreparable. And respondents will suffer their lasting impact for at least the next 10 years,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in her dissent.

Earlier Tuesday and prior to the Supreme Court ruling, the National Congress of American Indians, Native American Rights Funds and the National Urban Indian Family Coalition issued a news release calling for the Census count to continue until Oct. 31.

“The U.S. Census Bureau recently informed tribal nations that their reservations and communities are ‘completed’ or are nearing ‘completion’ of the 2020 Census. Unfortunately, the Census Bureau has not explained clearly what those statements mean. This misinformation has caused many tribal nations to mistakenly believe that all of their tribal citizens have been counted, yet Indian Country still remains undercounted,” the three national American Indian organizations said.

The only other recourse for now would be for Congress to pass legislation requiring the count to continue. This option appears unrealistic at this time.

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Levi Rickert
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Levi Rickert (Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation) is the founder, publisher and editor of Native News Online. Rickert was awarded Best Column 2021 Native Media Award for the print/online category by the Native American Journalists Association. He serves on the advisory board of the Multicultural Media Correspondents Association. He can be reached at lev[email protected]