Court Battles

NY leads lawsuit against Trump administration over census citizenship question


New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) is leading a multistate lawsuit to block the Trump administration from adding a question about citizenship to the 2020 census.

The 54-page complaint filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York was brought by 16 other states, Washington, D.C., six cities and the bipartisan United States Conference of Mayors.

In announcing the lawsuit Tuesday in New York City, Schneiderman called the citizenship question dangerous and damaging.


“This is a blatant effort to undermine the Census and prevent the Census Bureau from carrying out its clear constitutional mandate,” he said. 

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in March announced his decision to grant a request from the Department of Justice to reinstate the citizenship question on the 2020 census to help enforce the Voting Rights Act despite fierce opposition from Democrats and civil rights groups.

Opponents argue that given U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s crackdown on illegal immigration, adding a citizenship question will frighten people in immigrant communities from responding to the census, making the numbers inaccurate.

In its March press release, the Department of Commerce said Ross determined that obtaining complete and accurate information about citizenship to better enforce the Voting Rights Act outweighed the limited potential adverse impacts.

Getting accurate census data, Democrats say is critical.

Decennial census data is used to redraw House districts, which determine how many seats each state receives and how many electoral votes they can cast. The data is also used to divvy up billions of dollars in federal funding amongst the states.

“We argue with substantial evidence that this is really just an effort to punish places like New York that welcome immigrants, that are accommodating to immigrants and embrace the American tradition of open arms for all,” Schneiderman said.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) accused the Trump administration of trying to steal congressional seats from states with large immigrant communities.

“We have seen this pattern from this administration and from other Republicans to cheat at democracy, to cheat the system, to suppress the vote, to demand things like voters IDs so that minority groups will have fewer voters and we’ve seen it work. We must stop it,” he said.

“We cannot have a deliberately skewed census. It’s too foundational for American Democracy. And it is so brazen an attack on the Constitution, I don’t think it can stand up in court.”

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D) filed a lawsuit of his own late last month shortly after Ross announced the question would be added.

Other states that have signed on to the lawsuit led by New York include Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Chicago, New York City, Philadelphia, Providence, R.I., and Seattle, as well as the city and county of San Francisco have also signed on as plaintiffs in the case. 

Tags Census Citizenship Immigration Jeff Sessions Lawsuit New York Wilbur Ross Xavier Becerra
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