A federal judge has ruled against the Trump administration’s addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 census.
In the first major ruling on the controversial question, Judge Jesse Furman of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ordered the administration to stop its plans to add the question to the survey “without curing the legal defects” identified in his opinion.
Plaintiffs hailed the decision. “This ruling is a forceful rebuke of the Trump administration’s attempt to weaponize the census for an attack on immigrant communities,” said Dale Ho, director of the Voting Rights Project at the ACLU, which was a plaintiff in the case.
The Trump administration had tried several times to stop the case from going forward, including requests to the Supreme Court; the administration is likely to appeal Furman’s decision to the high court.
Plaintiffs in the trial include 18 states and several cities and jurisdictions, along with civil rights groups. The trial addressed two of seven lawsuits that arose from Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’ March decision to add the question. Two more trials over the questions are underway or about to begin.
Opponents of the question say it will reduce response rates in immigrant communities and make the constitutionally mandated decennial survey more costly and less accurate. The government had said the question was necessary to enforce the Voting Rights Act.
Justice Department spokeswoman Kelly Laco, said, “We are disappointed and are still reviewing the ruling,” and added that the government is “legally entitled to include the question on the census.”
A key question in the lead-up to the trial was where the request to include the question had originated. Ross testified before Congress that it came from the Justice Department, but documents released in the case indicated that he had asked the Justice Department to make the request after consulting with White House adviser Stephen K. Bannon and others.
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