Census Citizenship Question Lawsuits Move Forward

Official logo of United States Census Bureau.

“The first potential trial of the six lawsuits over the hotly contested 2020 census citizenship question could kick off the day before voters head to the polls for the upcoming midterm elections,” NPR reported Friday, in the on going legal battles – which now include “more than two dozen states and cities” who are suing the Census Bureau and the Commerce Department – over Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s decision to reinstate the citizenship question to the 2020 Census survey.  

During a court hearing at Manhattan federal court on Friday, U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman set the tentative start date for Nov. 5, adding that his “strong instinct” is that the two cases before him require a courtroom trial before he can issue a ruling.

NPR September 14, 2018

Two other possible cases which could go to trial are in California and Maryland and would start in January. “Rulings by the district court judges are expected to be appealed to higher courts,” which would push the battles closer to the 2020 census preparation deadlines.

In March, The Hill reported, Wilbur Ross added the citizenship question to the upcoming 2020 as a last-minute question in preparations for the decennial questionnaire. The question hasn’t appeared on a Census survey since 1950.

When called before Congress in March to testify Ross stated the DOJ had initiated the request, saying, the Washington Post reported, “Because it is from the Department of Justice, we are taking it very seriously, and we will issue a fulsome documentation of whatever conclusion we finally come to.”

However, as part of the ongoing lawsuits it was discovered in emails released that Ross had been “working to add the citizenship question months before the Justice Department sent a letter in December with detailed reasons and a formal request.”

“I am mystified why nothing have [sic] been done in response to my months old request that we include the citizenship question. Why not?” Ross stated in an email dated May 2, 2017, according to a WaPo report in July, and that other documents show an email dated April 5, 2017 from Ross’s executive assistant Brooke Alexander to Ross’s wife, Hilary Geary Ross, saying, “Steve Bannon has asked that the Secretary talk to someone about the Census.”

Internal memos released showed “the Census Bureau’s chief scientist had warned that adding the question would be “very costly, harms the quality of the census count, and would use substantially less accurate citizenship status data than are available.”

But it was a series of internal memos between Ron Jarmin and Michael Strain of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) from February 2018 which supports, critics say, their case and shows it was “nothing but a tool from the early days to further their anti-immigration agenda and that Ross was complicit.”

“None of my colleagues at AEI would speak favorably about the proposal,” Strain wrote. “Is it important that the person actually be in favor of the proposal?”

Jarmin responded, “We are trying to find someone who can give a professional expression of support for the proposal in contrast to the many folks we can find to give professional statements against the proposal.”

Washington Post June 24, 2018

The Trump administration has been fighting the legal challenges from going forward. In August, NPR reported the federal judge in the Maryland case dealt a fifth blow, the third in less than a month, to the Trump administration when U.S. District Judge George Hazel “rejected the Trump administration’s efforts to dismiss the lawsuit,” writing in his ruling that “it cannot be said that the Census bureau’s use of the citizenship question bears a ‘reasonable relationship to the accomplishment of an actual enumeration of the population,” referencing a 1996 Supreme Court case ruling about the census, adding that internal documents from the Trump administration filed “suggests” that the citizenship question was “an answer in search of a question” and that Ross had “misused his discretion by adding the controversial question to the census in March.”

“There is evidence indicating that the Secretary and other senior administration or campaign officials were determined to include the citizenship question in the 2020 Census and sought out [the Justice Department] to provide a legally defensible reason to do so,” Judge Hazel wrote in his ruling.

US District Judge Furman in the Southern District of New York, who has set the trial date for November 5th, said in his ruling in July, ABC News reported, that the plaintiff’s case may go forward, and that while Ross “had the authority” under the Enumeration Clause of the Constitution to reinstate the question on the 2020 Census, “but, in exercising that authority, may have violated the rights of plaintiffs who are now suing” and that Ross “cannot exercise his authority in a manner that would violate individual constitutional rights, such as the right to equal protection of the laws.”

At the heart of the case also lies, states argue, that “asking citizenship status as part of the census is unlawful and could undercount populations, not only threatening billions in federal funds with relies on accurate population counts,” but just as importantly, if not more so, it is the means which is used to redistribute congressional seats as well as Electoral College votes to the states.

On A Side Note (Opinion)

Definitely going to be one to watch. Miller must take everyone for fools out here. That is his first mistake, thinking no one can see through his bs, especially as his machinations continue to pile up. That little gutter rat would absolutely use Census info and send ICE after whoever his black heart decided. And the other obvious ones, the congressional seats and Electoral College votes. And by the way, Sessions was all on board according to one of his emails released. “Eager to assist,” he said … back in September 2017.

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