Court Battles

Flurry of lawsuits filed over citizenship question on census

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Lawsuits are piling up against the Trump administration’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.   

The nonpartisan Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, along with the law firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against the citizenship question on behalf of the City of San Jose and the Black Alliance for Just Immigration. The suit was filed against the Commerce Department in the Northern District of California.  

The lawsuit is the fourth legal challenge that’s been brought since Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross agreed in March to grant a request from the Department of Justice to reinstate the citizenship question on the 2020 census.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D) was the first to sue, followed by a lawsuit from attorneys general in 17 blue-leaning states and Washington, D.C. being led by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D). {mosads}

The National Redistricting Foundation, an organization led by Obama-era Attorney General Eric Holder, also brought a lawsuit last week on behalf of a group of Maryland and Arizona residents.

In its 36-page complaint, the Lawyers’ Committee argues that the Trump administration has violated the Constitution and the Administrative Procedure Act by “arbitrarily and capriciously adding a new and untested question to the 2020 Decennial Census that will require all United States residents to disclose whether they are citizens.”

“If these questions are added to the Census, there will be an increase in the undercount of persons living in San Jose, and specifically an increased undercount of minority populations, leading to the unconstitutional and unlawful loss of representation in the United States House of Representatives and millions of dollars of federal funds,” attorneys for the Lawyers’ Committee wrote.

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 among the states. 

The Commerce and Justice departments have said the citizenship question is needed to help enforce the Voting Rights Act. The citizenship question hasn’t appeared on the census questionnaire since 1950.

In a statement Tuesday, Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee, called that a spurious claim. 

“Cases to protect the voting rights of minority communities brought by the Justice Department have come to a grinding halt,” she said. 

“This citizenship question aims to weaponize the census for the purpose of disrupting the 2020 redistricting cycle and obstructing efforts to ensure a fair and accurate census count as the Constitution requires.”

Tags Eric Holder Wilbur Ross Xavier Becerra
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