2020 Census: Judge Rules Against Controversial Citizenship Question
January 23, 2019
Every ten years, the United States (U.S.) conducts a census to properly follow the evolution of its population. The U.S. census provides critical data about all residents of the country, regardless of citizenship. Currently, the census does not ask a question about citizenship. It’s believed that such a question could limit participation as immigrants may fear government identification or retaliation.
Unfortunately, the Trump administration announced in March 2018 that it intended to add a citizenship question to the next census, scheduled for 2020. The question of citizenship has not been included on the U.S. census since 1950. This is in part due to the government’s ability to supplement with its own immigration records. Additionally, the Constitution itself rules that the census should count all residents, not just citizens.
Recent news, though, has provided hope to those in fear of the ramifications of the 2020 census. A federal judge in New York has ruled that the Trump administration must remove the controversial question from the 2020 census. This article further details this key victory, as well as what may happen in the future as a result.
Overview of the Census
First conducted by Thomas Jefferson, the U.S. census provides key information about the U.S. population. Required by the Constitution, the census happens every ten years. In fact, the next census will happen in 2020. The Constitution orders that the census count every resident of America, not every citizen, so the usefulness of a question pertaining to citizenship is questionable. Many in immigrant and diverse communities across the country fear that such a question could make them vulnerable to targeted government raids or other consequences. As fear of retaliation can cause lack of participation, the citizenship question if implemented might lead to data errors and undercounts.
The census impacts government representation, as well as allocation of certain federal funding and support for local communities and states. Thus, any changes to the census can cause ripple effects across the nation. You can read more about the U.S. Census, including specific information about the upcoming 2020 census, on the Census Bureau’s website.
Judge Rules Against Trump Administration
In March 2018, the Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced that the 2020 census would include a new question about citizenship. Quickly, lawyers and human rights groups filed lawsuits challenging the plan in states across the country, including New York, Maryland, and Texas. Last week, on January 15, New York federal district judge Jesse Furman released his 277-page ruling on two cases brought before him regarding the census.
Plaintiffs in the case argued that the Trump administration’s plan for the 2020 census targeted immigrant communities, as well as people of color. Could such data be utilized to identify and harm immigrant communities? While Judge Furman did not necessarily agree with this argument, he did agree that the institution of the citizenship question was “unlawful” for several reasons.
One reason cited was the decision’s violation of the Administrative Procedure Act. According to Furman, Secretary Ross “ignored and violated a clear statutory duty” when he did not plan to utilize existing government records regarding citizenship, instead electing to include a question on the census.
Another reason Judge Furman struck down the 2020 census citizenship question was the seemingly arbitrary and veiled nature of the decision itself. In explanation, Furman stated the decision was announced “in a manner that concealed its true basis rather than explaining it.” Yet, Judge Furman left the possibility open for Ross and the Trump administration to explain and expand their reasoning. It is possible that should the administration provide adequate evidence and justification for the decision, the ruling could be altered or reversed.
Though this seems unlikely as other challenges to the 2020 census citizenship question exist across the nation. Either way, this victory provides hope for those fighting for a fair 2020 census.
Will the Case Reach the Supreme Court?
It is unclear at this time if the case will be heard by the Supreme Court. Yet, since the Trump administration has appealed Judge Furman’s ruling, it would not be surprising for the highest court to hear the case. Despite this, the 2020 census is fast approaching. And the Supreme Court has not yet announced any plans to hear the appeal. As of yesterday, news broke that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross will testify in March 2019 at a House Oversight Hearing regarding his controversial citizenship question. Perhaps after this event the Supreme Court will decide whether or not it will consider the case.
Davis & Associates continually monitors government immigration reforms, litigation, and other news. Our blog will receive updates if and when they become available.
Contact Expert Houston Immigration Attorneys
It can be difficult for immigrants and their families to follow current U.S. politics and news. Sometimes, government updates or reforms can make the future seem frightening, or more uncertain. If you worry about your immigration status, the 2020 census, or any other immigration concern, contact an experienced immigration lawyer today. A skilled lawyer can mean the difference between victory and defeat. Lawyers provide priceless services and protections for immigrants across America. Further, proper representation increases your chances of a successful outcome in immigration court.
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 Lo Wang, H. (2019, January 15). Judges Orders Trump Administration to Remove 2020 Census Citizenship Question. NPR. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org