A federal judge in Maryland on July 17, issued an order permanently barring the Trump administration from placing a citizenship question on the 2020 Census in any form.
U.S. District Judge George J. Hazel’s order permanently enjoins Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, the U.S. Department of Commerce, the Director of the U.S. Census Bureau and staff from including a citizenship question on the 2020 Census.
The order, which was agreed to by both the plaintiffs and the administration, also prevents the administration from delaying the printing of the Census questionnaire for the purpose of including a question about citizenship and from otherwise inquiring about citizenship as part of the 2020 Census. The terms of the order will be enforced by the court until the 2020 Census results are processed and sent to the President by December 31, 2020.
The order comes less than a month after the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the immediate addition of the citizenship question to the Census.
MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) and Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC (Advancing Justice | AAJC) successfully sued the Trump administration in Maryland, challenging the unconstitutional addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. In April, Judge Hazel ruled that the addition of the question violated the Enumeration Clause of the U.S. Constitution and the Administrative Procedure Act. However, Judge Hazel’s ruling stopped short of granting MALDEF’s claims that the administration’s intention in adding the question to the Census was to discriminate against non-citizens and communities of color in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fifth Amendment, and that members of the administration conspired to deprive racial minorities of their constitutional right to equal representation.
In May, MALDEF presented new evidence for the intentional discrimination claim following published revelations of direct communication about adding the citizenship question between a GOP strategist, Commerce Department officials and Trump transition team members. In June, Judge Hazel agreed to reconsider his decision in light of the new evidence; today’s order means there is no need to proceed with additional litigation on that issue.
In the upcoming days, MALDEF will request a dismissal of its appeal of Judge Hazel’s intentional discrimination claim in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth District.
“This order brings a formal end to this despicable and potentially disastrous attempt to politicize the Census,” stated Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel of MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund). “However, the Trump administration, and Commerce Secretary lyin’ Wilbur Ross, in particular, cannot be trusted to be evenhanded and judicious in future census-related endeavors. Therefore, the court’s retention of jurisdiction is a critical element of this resolution.
“With ongoing court jurisdiction, everyone should feel confident that being counted in the Census, even in defiance of Donald Trump’s clear and discriminatory wishes, is essential and protected.”
Denise Hulett, national senior counsel for MALDEF and the lead litigator on the Census case stated: “This has been a long and unnecessary battle. Every piece of evidence in front of Secretary Ross told him that adding the question would make the Census less accurate and more costly, but he forged ahead anyway to carry out this administration’s discriminatory goals to undermine a complete count.
“Two years later, those goals and his fabrication have been exposed. Now we can move forward with the important work of counting every single person in this country.”
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