A federal judge in New York has put the brakes on a Trump administration plan to add a question on US citizenship to the upcoming 2020 census. The question itself was not unconstitutional, he ruled, but added improperly.
US District Judge Jesse Furman ruled on Tuesday that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross didn’t follow proper procedure when adding the question to the census last year. Several states and immigrant rights groups have argued that adding the question to the census would frighten non-citizens away from participating in the nationwide headcount, resulting in inaccurate data.
An underreported population could lead to congressional seats and federal funding being incorrectly assigned among states.
Ross contended that the US government needs citizenship data to better uphold the Voting Rights Act. The Department of Justice said it plans on appealing Furman’s ruling. The case could be fought in the Supreme Court before a final decision is reached.
A question on citizenship previously appeared on the US census until it was scrapped by the Truman administration in 1950. Trump’s reintroduction of the question has been met with stiff resistance from Democrats and non-governmental organizations.
The New York case pitted civil rights groups, 18 states, and six cities against the Trump administration. Over half of the states involved are ‘blue’ states, and all six cities are run by Democrat mayors.
Five additional lawsuits have been filed across the country, with one beginning in California earlier this month. California’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra called the citizenship question “not just a bad idea” but an “illegal” one.
According to research from the Public Policy Institute of California, Becerra’s native state was home to over 2.3 million illegal immigrants as of 2014. If these immigrants – who make up 10 percent of California’s workforce – were to refrain from filling out the census forms, California would lose between one and three seats in the House of Representatives.
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