Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Second judge blocks the Trump administration’s citizenship question on census

A federal judge in San Francisco has blocked the Trump administration’s move to include a citizenship question in the 2020 census, calling the proposal “arbitrary and capricious” and saying it would harm the state of California and be “contrary to the Constitution.”

In a ruling released yesterday, U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg said that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had failed to justify his decision to include a citizenship question in the upcoming census. The judge said such a question would ultimately hamper the department’s constitutional mandate to conduct an accurate count of the nation’s population by causing noncitizens to avoid enumeration, adding that the question “threatens the very foundation of our democratic system.”

“A significant differential undercount, particularly impacting noncitizen and Latino communities will result from the inclusion of a citizenship question on the 2020 Census,” Seeborg wrote. An inaccurate count would be particularly hard on California, the judge said, as state population is used to calculate federal funding and congressional district boundaries.

The Commerce secretary announced last year that he would add the citizenship question in order to “provide complete and accurate data” for the census. However, in his ruling, Seeborg wrote that Ross’ reliance on Voting Rights Act enforcement to justify inclusion of the citizenship question was “mere pretext and the definition of an arbitrary and capricious governmental act.”

State Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra, who spearheaded the lawsuit, called the ruling “a great victory, not only for California but for all people who are in the United States of America who deserve to be counted when the next census occurs.” “No state is more affected by the census than California,” he told The Times. “Because we have the largest population, because we send more tax money to the federal treasury than any state in the nation, because we have the most delegates.”

Seeborg is the second judge to bar the addition of a citizenship question. A federal judge in New York had previously blocked the administration from adding the question, and the U.S. Supreme Court last month agreed to review that decision.