Federal judge orders trial over census citizenship question

A federal judge Wednesday rejected a request from the Trump administration to dismiss a lawsuit challenging its addition of a question regarding citizenship to the 2020 census. 

U.S. District Court Judge George J. Hazel’s ruling paves the way for a trial in January to determine if the question is constitutional.

“The parties will be permitted to present evidence outside of the administrative record at trial; The defense will be permitted to argue at the close of trial that such evidence should not be considered in the Court’s final decision,” Hazel wrote in his decision.

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Latino and Asian-American groups filed the original suit in May claiming that the question would disenfranchise minority residents who are not citizens and lead to underrepresentation in Congress and unfair allocation of federal funds to communities of color.

That suit, one of several challenging the Trump administration's decision to add the question to the census, was combined with another lawsuit by a group of individuals from Maryland and Arizona making similar claims.

“This case needs to go to public trial; characteristically, the Trump administration has obfuscated and outright lied about its motivation to add a citizenship question,” Thomas A. Saenz, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund's president and general counsel, said in a statement. “Its decision to add the question serves a barely-concealed white nationalist agenda, and sacrifices the centuries-long integrity of the Census to that deplorable service.” 

While the Census Bureau eliminated a question on citizenship after the 1950 census, the Justice Department last year said such a question was again necessary to help it enforce the Voting Rights Act.

-Updated 8:40 p.m.