U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman has ordered the Trump administration to halt plans to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. The ruling is a win for critics who say the question is unnecessary and intrusive; U.S. households have not been asked about citizenship status since 1950.
The plaintiffs in the suit argued that the citizenship question was a calculated move by the Trump administration to drive down the response rate from immigrant groups and minorities.
BREAKING: A federal court rejected the Trump administration’s inclusion of a citizenship question on the 2020 census.
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.
— ACLU (@ACLU) January 15, 2019
Furman said the question violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), a law which requires agencies to study an issue before implementing it or changing prior policies. Furman said the Trump administration failed in this regard, adding that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who oversees the Census Bureau, provided “pretextual” reasoning for the move:
“Most blatantly, Secretary Ross ignored, and violated, a statute that requires him, in circumstances like those here, to collect data through the acquisition and use of ‘administrative records’ instead of through ‘direct inquiries’ on a survey such as the census.
Additionally, Secretary Ross’s decision to add a citizenship question was ‘arbitrary and capricious’ on its own terms: 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 APA violations.”
Furman’s ruling was praised by Dale Ho, the director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, which represented some of the plaintiffs at trial.
BREAKING: We won! Federal Court blocks Trump Administration from adding citizenship question to the Census. Details to come.
— Dale Ho (@dale_e_ho) January 15, 2019
In a statement, he said:
“This ruling is a forceful rebuke of the Trump administration’s attempt to weaponize the census for an attack on immigrant communities. The evidence at trial, including from the government’s own witness, exposed how adding a citizenship question would wreck the once-in-a-decade count of the nation’s population. The inevitable result would have been — and the administration’s clear intent was — to strip federal resources and political representation from those needing it most.”
The Trump administration is expected to appeal the decision, but that didn’t stop people from savoring the victory.
Pleased a federal judge struck down the attempt by the Trump Administration to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census.
Also, the judge basically called Secretary Wilbur Ross a liar.
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) January 15, 2019
The Trump administration’s scheme to rig the 2020 Census threatens American democracy and was struck down in court today. The fight is not over though – we must make sure that the Census in 2020 is done in a fair, scientific way. https://t.co/mFqPu5G9Sg
— Eric Holder (@EricHolder) January 15, 2019
GREAT NEWS—We just blocked the Trump admin's effort to add a citizenship question to the Census, a move that could have deterred participation and deprived #DC of critical funds.
The Court put it best that adding the question "is neither logical nor rational on its own terms." https://t.co/gj45WrIpup
— AG Karl A. Racine (@AGKarlRacine) January 15, 2019
Among those who disagreed with the ruling was Pete Hegseth, a weekend co-host on “Fox and Friends,” long considered the president’s favorite television program. Hegseth said the decision came from a “rogue” judge and that the ruling “will be––and should be––appealed to the Supreme Court.”
Yet another *rogue* judge. This will be—and should be—appealed to the Supreme Court.
CITIZENSHIP is the core of our Republic—it’s 101 stuff. Even the judge had to admit, there is nothing unconstitutional about merely ASKING the question.https://t.co/GWeKV8sVeY
— Pete Hegseth (@PeteHegseth) January 15, 2019
Fox Business host Lou Dobbs also weighed in, saying the decision came from an “Obama Appointed Federal judge.”
— Lou Dobbs (@LouDobbs) January 15, 2019
The ruling is significant, as Buzzfeed reporter Zoe Tillman notes, because although numerous district court judges “have ruled against the Trump administration in litigation over the citizenship question,” this was the first trial, marking “the first final order from a judge blocking the addition of the question of the 2020 Census.”
A number of district court judges have ruled against the Trump administration in litigation over the citizenship question, but this was the first trial and this is now the first final order from a judge blocking the addition of the question of the 2020 Census
— Zoe Tillman (@ZoeTillman) January 15, 2019
Kelly Laco, a Justice Department spokeswoman, released a statement saying the Trump administration was within its legal right to ask the citizenship question:
“We are disappointed and are still reviewing the ruling. Secretary Ross, the only person with legal authority over the census, reasonably decided to reinstate a citizenship question on the 2020 census in response to the Department of Justice’s request for better citizenship data, to protect voters against racial discrimination. Not only has the government asked a citizenship question in the census for most of the last 200 years, 41 million households have already answered it on the American Community Survey since 2005. Our government is legally entitled to include a citizenship question on the census and people in the United States have a legal obligation to answer. Reinstating the citizenship question ultimately protects the right to vote and helps ensure free and fair elections for all Americans.”
President Donald Trump has not yet commented on the ruling.