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Judge: Trump Administration Can’t Add Citizenship Question to Census

A federal judge ruled Tuesday that the Trump administration cannot add to the 2020 U.S. Census a question about respondents’ citizenship. Critics had decried Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’ move to include the question, arguing that it would dissuade immigrants of all kinds from responding to the decennial survey, which helps allocate congressional seats and approximately $675 billion in federal funding. The plaintiffs, which included 18 states, the District of Columbia, and activist groups, claimed the Trump administration was aware of that potential, and actively attempted to reduce the response rate of immigrants by adding the “arbitrary” and “capricious” question. The Trump administration claimed it had the authority to change the Census if it chose to, and that aggressive follow-up from personnel would ensure that response rates didn’t drop. The administration is expected to appeal the decision.

Dale Ho, the director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, heralded the ruling. “The ruling is a forceful rebuke of the Trump administration’s attempt to weaponize the Census for an attack on immigrant communities,” Ho was quoted as saying in a statement. “The evidence at trial, including from the government’s own witness, exposed how adding a citizenship question would wreck the once-in-a-decade count of the nation’s population. The inevitable result would have been—and the administration’s clear intent was—to strip federal resources and political representation from those needing it most.”