Federal Judge Blocks Trump Administration From Including Citizenship Question On 2020 Census

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On Tuesday, a federal judge struck down an attempt by the Trump administration to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. According to the Huffington Post, critics of the question say that it could result in fewer minorities and immigrants responding to the survey, fearing repercussions for their answers.

The ruling was made by U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman from the Southern District of New York. The question has been viewed as highly controversial ever since it was first suggested by the administration. Many critics worried that the question could dramatically reduce the response rate, resulting in inaccurate numbers for the 2020 census.

The suit against the question was filed by a diverse group. 18 states, as well as the District of Columbia, immigrant rights groups, and several cities all pushed back against the move. They also asserted that adding the question to the census actually violated a federal statute which requires a period of input and evidence prior to making changes to policy.

Judge Furman apparently agreed, ruling that the proposal was “unlawful.” Furman specifically criticized Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross for adding in the citizenship question, stating that, “the decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census — even if it did not violate the Constitution itself — was unlawful for a multitude of independent reasons and must be set aside.”

“Most blatantly, Secretary Ross ignored, and violated, a statute that requires him, in circumstances like those here, to collect data through the acquisition and use of ‘administrative records’ instead of through ‘direct inquiries’ on a survey such as the census,” Furman wrote.

The Justice Department had previously requested the citizenship question to be included. Officials stated that the question would help provide additional information on the voting age population, and would further help to enforce the Voting Rights Act.

While opponents of the question are celebrating this decision as a victory, the battle is far from over. The Supreme Court is poised to review the case. They will then determine whether evidence outside of the official record can be introduced into the case, including outside testimony. This hearing will take place some time in the next month.

But even as the Trump Administration makes plans to fight back against the ruling, opponents to the new question are saying that this victory is an important one in light of the upcoming 2020 census.

“This ruling is a forceful rebuke of the Trump administration’s attempt to weaponize the census for an attack on immigrant communities,” Dale Ho — director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, and representative of some of the plaintiffs in the trial — said in a statement. “The evidence at trial, including from the government’s own witness, exposed how adding a citizenship question would wreck the once-in-a-decade count of the nation’s population. The inevitable result would have been — and the administration’s clear intent was — to strip federal resources and political representation from those needing it most.”