Court Battles

Immigrant rights groups file lawsuit challenging census citizenship question

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A group of 21 immigrant rights advocacy organizations on Thursday filed a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

The lawsuit, filed in the federal district court in Maryland, marks the fifth legal challenge that the administration is facing over the move.

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the Asian Americans Advancing Justice and the Law Office of Robert P. Newman brought the suit on the groups’ behalf, alleging that the question violates the clause of the Constitution that requires an “actual Enumeration” of every person living in the United States to take place every 10 years.


The groups argue the question could scare certain populations from answering honestly and will cause a disproportionate undercount of non-U.S. citizens, the U.S. citizen family members of non-U.S. citizens, Asian-Americans and Latinos.

“Organizational Plaintiffs’ members, clients, and constituents live in communities whose residents are less likely to respond to the citizenship question on the Census out of fear that Census responses will not be kept confidential and that there may be adverse immigration enforcement against non-U.S. citizen household members,” they argued in the 90-page complaint.

The groups, which include the Mi Familia Vota Education Fund and the California Latino Legislative Caucus, are asking the court to declare a census question about citizenship status unconstitutional and block the Department of Commerce and the Census Bureau from including it on this year’s form.

The Department of Justice originally asked for the question to be added to the 2020 census. It has claimed it needs citizenship data to better enforce the Voting Rights Act. 

The Department of Commerce created a firestorm by approving the request in March. Democrats and civil rights and immigrant groups are pushing courts across the country to intervene. 

The National Redistricting Foundation also has a legal challenge to the census question pending in the federal district court in Maryland on behalf of a group of Maryland and Arizona residents. 

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D) and the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law filed separate lawsuits on the questionnaire in the federal district court for the Northern District of California, and New York and 17 other blue-leaning states sued in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Tags 2020 Census Census Citizenship Immigration Question Xavier Becerra

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