HomeAsian AmericansThird judge rules against census' citizenship question

Third judge rules against census’ citizenship question

Views from the Edge

US Census Bureau

A third federal judge has ordered the Census Bureau to halt its plan to ask people about their citizenship.

Judge George Hazel of the US District Court for the District of Maryland blasted the Trump administration plan to add that question to the 2020 Census. Hazel said that “every scientific analysis” in the record “confirms that the addition of the citizenship question will result in less accurate and less complete citizenship” data.

The judge also said the addition was “arbitrary and capricious” and is in violation of federal law. He also ruled it violated the Enumeration Clause of the Constitution.

Hazel said the addition of the question would “unreasonably compromise the distributive accuracy of the census.” Months earlier, federal judges in New York and California came to the same conclusion.

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on the two earlier rulings on April 23 and issue a decision in June.

Critics of the question worry that would affect the accuracy of new population numbers that determine how many congressional seats and Electoral College votes each state gets. Census numbers also guide how an estimated $880 billion a year in federal tax dollars for Medicaid, schools and other public services are distributed to local communities around the country.

Meanwhile, House Democrats continue to put pressure on the Commerce Department, where the U.S. Census Bureau is located.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross refused to appear before the House Appropriations Committee for the second straight day last week. Instead, he sent a team of experts to answer the Congress members’ questions about his department’s budget. The Democrat-dominated committee refused to hear their testimony, insisting they need to question Ross. The shortened meeting continued with members making their statements to an empty chair.

Rep. Grace Meng, D-NY, called Ross’s refusal to testify “an abandonment of his responsibilities” as the Commerce Secretary. “It is an insult and an attack on transparency and trust.” 

The Committee on Oversight and Reform voted April 2 to authorize Chairman Elijah E. Cummings to issue a subpoenas for testimony relating to the Trump administration’s secret efforts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. One Republican Committee Member voted in favor of the census-related subpoenas.

Ross has said he added the question at the request of the Justice Department, but court documents show he began considering the change and discussed it with administration staff and officials before the request was sent.

“The Committee is trying to determine the real reason Secretary Ross added the citizenship question, and the documents and testimony covered by these subpoenas are critical to answering that question,” said Oversight Chair Rep. Elijah Cummings in a statement. 

“We don’t want thousands of pieces of paper that are already public or extensively redacted. We want the specific priority documents we asked for—unredacted and in full. We have bent over backwards to try to work with the Administration. We identified priority documents, we extended deadlines, and we even offered to review certain documents in camera. But the Trump Administration’s stonewalling has left the Committee no choice but to obtain this information by compulsory process.”

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