Trump administration to appeal ruling against 2020 census citizenship question

The Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a notice Thursday declaring it is appealing a federal judge’s decision that the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 census would be unlawful.

The notice did not give any information on the substance of the administration’s appeal, but the Justice Department had argued that Commerce Sec. Wilbur Ross had the authority to add the question to the census and that in the past, the question had been included. 

“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,” Justice spokeswoman Kelly Laco said in a statement issued on Tuesday.

{mosads}“Reinstating the citizenship question ultimately protects the right to vote and helps ensure free and fair elections for all Americans.”

Judge Jesse Furman of the Southern District of New York in a decision on Tuesday said the addition of the question to the census was “arbitrary and capricious,” and prohibited the administration from including it.

Furman, an Obama appointee, said the question would violate a statute that requires the government to collect information through “administrative records” rather than “direct inquiries” on a survey such as the census. 

Critics of the administration’s decision to add the question had presented evidence that it would encourage people of foreign descent who are citizens to not take part in the census. They said the administration’s intent was to undercount immigrant communities and possibly reduce their resources and representation in Congress. 

The census will help determine the number of congressional seats and electoral votes that each state gets, making it critical to how votes will be counted in the decade after it is taken.


Ross first announced in March that he would return the citizenship question to the census, saying it would better help the government enforce the Voting Rights Act. The query had not been included since 1950.

The DOJ’s filing is a procedural step that could precede taking the appeal to a circuit court or asking the Supreme Court to review the case.

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