US: Judge halts citizenship question on 2020 census

Decision to include question 'arbitrary and capricious,' District Judge Jesse Furman rules

US: Judge halts citizenship question on 2020 census

By Michael Hernandez


The Donald Trump administration will not be allowed to ask census respondents if they are citizens when the next nationwide count takes place in 2020, a federal judge in New York ruled Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman ordered administration halt its plans to include the question, which has been omitted since 1950, after Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross sought to reintroduce it.

The question that was to be included was "Is this person a citizen of the United States?"

Ross' decision was "arbitrary and capricious," Furman wrote in his 277-page decision.

"He failed to consider several important aspects of the problem; alternately ignored, cherry-picked, or badly misconstrued the evidence in the record before him; acted irrationally both in light of that evidence and his own stated decisional criteria; and failed to justify significant departures from past policies and practices — a veritable smorgasbord of classic, clear-cut legal violations," Furman wrote.

His decision, however, is unlikely to be the final word on the matter -- a fact Furman acknowledged in his lengthy ruling. It is expected to be appealed, and another suit filed by the state of California is already underway.

A third suit in the commonwealth of Maryland is expected to begin next week.

Rights groups and states have sought to challenge the Trump administration's plan to include the question, arguing it would produce an inaccurate tally.

"This victory in our case is a forceful rebuke of the administration’s attempts to weaponize the census to attack immigrants and communities of color," the American Civil Liberties Union, one of the plaintiffs in the New York case, said on Twitter shortly after Furman issued his decision.

The purpose of the census is to provide an accurate head count, which states and the federal government use to allocate resources among other purposes, not to identify the number of citizens in a jurisdiction.

Furman said in his ruling that "hundreds of thousands — if not millions — of people will go uncounted in the census if the citizenship question is included."

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