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Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The 2020 Census will redraw the electoral map and guide billions of dollars in federal spending for the next decade. And critics say the Trump administration is skewing those results by adding a question about citizenship to the census.

The big picture: The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Tuesday over the citizenship question — about whether it's unconstitutional, if it violates other federal laws, and whether this dispute even belongs in court.

Why it matters: The basic point of the census is to figure out how many people live in the U.S., and where. Countless decisions flow from that, including how many seats each state gets in the House. The survey also includes basic demographic questions, including age and sex.

  • But, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross touched off a firestorm last year by announcing the addition of a new question — asking people whether they're U.S. citizens.

Between the lines: The Census Bureau itself told Ross that adding the question would make the census less accurate, because some non-citizens will lie or refuse to fill out the survey. It would probably end up undercounting about 6.5 million people, the bureau said.

  • Minority communities "stand to lose funding for their schools, housing, infrastructure, and healthcare, among other critical needs, for the next decade if the citizenship question is allowed to go forward," the Brennan Center for Justice said in a brief to the Supreme Court.

Critics believe that's the whole point, and sued.

  • They said the process by which this happened doesn't support Ross' stated reasons for doing it, citing internal communications as well as the fact that he passed up other alternatives the Census Bureau said would be more accurate.
  • A federal judge in New York sided with Ross' critics earlier this year, saying he didn't follow the processes laid out in federal law and calling his reasoning a mere pretext.

The other side: The Justice Department argues, first and foremost, that this isn't the courts' business, as the Commerce secretary has considerable authority over the census.

  • On the merits, the administration says this question is no big deal — it's been asked before (though usually of smaller samples) — and that the risk of under-counting is mere speculation.
  • The lower court "strained to read every statement and action of the Secretary in the worst possible light," DOJ argues.

What's next: A ruling is expected by June.

Go deeper

Exclusive: GOP Leader McCarthy asks to meet with Biden about the border

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy at CPAC. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has requested a meeting with President Biden to discuss the rising numbers of unaccompanied migrant children at the U.S.-Mexico border, in a letter sent on Friday.

Why it matters: Biden is facing criticism from the right and the left as agency actions and media reports reveal spiking numbers of migrant children overwhelming parts of the U.S. immigration system. Recent data shows an average of 321 kids being referred to migrant shelters each day, as Axios reported.

Vaccine hesitancy drops, but with partisan divide

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

69% of the public intends to get a COVID vaccine or already has, up significantly from 60% in November, according to a report out Friday from the Pew Research Center.

Yes, but: The issue has become even more partisan, with 56% of Republicans who say they want or have already received a coronavirus vaccine compared to 83% of Democrats.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
3 hours ago - Energy & Environment

China's 5-year plan is hazy on climate

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

China's highly anticipated 5-year plan revealed on Friday provides little new information about its climate initiatives, leaving plenty to discuss in multinational meetings this year and lots of blanks for China to fill in later.

Driving the news: The top-line targets for 2025, per state media, aim to lower energy intensity by 13.5% and carbon emissions intensity by 18% — that is, measures of energy use and emissions relative to economic output.