A federal judge on Tuesday ordered the Trump administration to stop its plans to include a question about citizenship in the 2020 Census.
Judge Jesse Furman of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross’ choice “violated the public trust.”
“Secretary Ross’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census — even if it did not violate the Constitution itself — was unlawful for a multitude of independent reasons and must be set aside,” Furman wrote in his 277-page decision.
The last time a census survey contained a citizenship question was in 1950.
“That form asked where each person was born and in a follow-up question asked, ‘If foreign born — Is he naturalized?'” according to NPR. “In 1960, there was no such question about citizenship, only about place of birth.”
The proposed question for the 2020 Census: “Is this person a citizen of the United States?”
• Yes, born in the United States
• Yes, born in Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands or Northern Marianas
• Yes, born abroad of U.S. citizen parent or parents
• Yes, U.S. citizen by naturalization – Print year of naturalization
• No, not a U.S. citizen
In April, the New York State Attorney General’s Office filed a lawsuit to block the Trump Administration from demanding citizenship information in the 2020 Census. New York is leading a coalition of 34 states, cities, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors in this case.
Letitia James, who was sworn into office earlier this month, is the first African-American, as well as the first woman, to be elected to the position.
“Today’s ruling is a win for New Yorkers and Americans across the country who believe in a fair and accurate count of the residents of our nation,” James said, in a statement. “Attempts by the Trump administration to mandate a question about citizenship were not rooted in a desire to strengthen the census process and would only undermine our immigrant communities. Inciting fear in our residents is not only immoral, but also ill-conceived.”
In December, James said she has plans to launch a thorough investigation into President Trump and his business dealings.
Meanwhile, the Justice Department said it was “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,” the department said in a statement.
NAACP President Derrick Johnson lauded the ruling as a positive step.
“The ruling by Judge Jesse M. Furman is a step in the right direction to stopping xenophobic rhetoric and policy at all levels of government,” Johnson said in a statement. “The addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census only increases the likelihood of a substantial undercount of immigrant communities, particularly immigrants of color including those from the African Diaspora who are essential to determining U.S. elections, congressional seats and federal funding decisions for a decade. Any citizenship question compounds the already inadequate preparation for Census 2020 and further dilute the votes of racial and ethnic minorities, and deprive their communities of critical federal funds and undervalue their voices and interests in the political arena. We must continue to stay vigilant and not let this administration use yet another mechanism to devalue and stifle the voices of people of color.”
The Washington Informer Web Staff contributed to this story.