Federal Trial Reviews Trump Administration’s Citizenship Question on 2020 Census

A new federal trial began Tuesday in Maryland reviewing concerns that the inclusion of a citizenship question to the 2020 census will depress participation of households with noncitizens just a week after a federal judge in New York barred the Trump administration from adding the question to the survey. The same issue is also being tried in California where closing arguments are scheduled for Feb. 15.

The court had consolidated the claims of residents in Texas, Arizona, Nevada, Florida, as well as more than two dozen organizations and individuals in December for the upcoming trial in Maryland. Their attorneys state that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who oversees the Census Bureau, is using the addition of a citizenship question “to further the unconstitutional goal of diluting the political power of non-white immigrant communities.”

While different lawsuits challenging the question are underway, the Trump administration has asked the Supreme Court to intervene and bypass the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit due to a pressing deadline. The Census Bureau needs to finalize questions for the 2020 census by June 30 in order to print paper forms on time.

Last week, Judge Jesse M. Furman of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ordered the administration to end its plans to include a citizenship question on the 2020 census. The judge stated that Ross’s addition of the question was “arbitrary and capricious” as well as an “egregious” violation of the Administrative Procedure Act after Ross ignored the advice of officials who said the question could lead to an inaccurate census. However, following the decision, the Justice Department filed a notice that it is appealing the ruling. Ross is set to testify on Mar. 14 to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform about the citizenship question.

Children, minorities, and people in poverty are at the highest disadvantage if a citizenship question is included. Over 13 million children under the age of 18 lived with at least one noncitizen in 2016. In addition, one in five people in poverty live with at least one noncitizen. Furthermore, Asians and Hispanics/Latinos were the most likely to live with a noncitizen.

The inclusion of a citizenship question could result in a suppression of the count, risking the accuracy of information that is used for the allocation of federal funding, determination of the number of representatives from each state, and identification for first responders and disaster recovery personnel during emergencies.


Media Resources: Population Reference Bureau 10/5/18; The Washington Post 1/22/19; The Washington Post 1/15/19; National Public Radio 1/22/19

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