A federal judge in New York on Thursday refused to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s decision to include a citizenship question on the 2020 Census because it might have been based on “discriminatory animus.”
U.S. District Court Judge Jesse Furman said that those bringing the lawsuit — Democratic state attorneys general, immigrant advocacy groups, the NAACP, among other groups — successfully proved that adding the question could “plausibly” affect the count in minority communities because of President Donald Trump’s “anti-immigrant rhetoric.”
“Plaintiffs plausibly allege that this risk is ‘heightened in the current political climate because of President Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric,” Furman said.
“Accordingly, Plaintiffs claim, defendants’ actions ‘will add to this unprecedented level of anxiety in immigrant communities,’ leading to ‘nonresponse and lower participation by many immigrants,'” he said.
Furman’s decision is the first major ruling in lawsuits challenging the decision by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in March to add the citizenship question to the Census, BuzzFeed reports.
Other actions are pending in Maryland and California.
The last time the Census asked a citizenship question was in 1950 — and Furman noted that bureau officials had resisted efforts to add back the question until this year.
However, Furman did not rule on the merits of the case — he called it a “political question” — deciding instead on whether plaintiffs had a strong enough case to withstand challenges from the Trump administration.
“The need for judicial deference does not justify judicial abdication,” Furman wrote.
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