Another Court Rules Against Contentious Census Question; Idaho Lawyer Says Flawed Numbers Harmful

Mar 7, 2019

A court in California ruled a citizenship question proposed for the 2020 census by the Trump Administration unconstitutional. It's the second legal defeat for the question. In January, a New York court said including the question was unjustified.
Credit Neil R / Flickr

This week, a California judge ruled against the Trump Administration adding a question to the 2020 census inquiring about immigration status. Should it be included, there are fears it could result in an inaccurate count.

The controversial question at the heart of the matter asks: “Is this person a citizen of the United States?” If it were to be included on the 2020 census, it would be the first time immigration status was asked about since 1950.

This week’s decision in California follows a ruling earlier this year in New York – both times courts have deemed the question inappropriate. The California judge says the question violates the Constitution’s Enumeration Clause.

“The clause itself is sort of long and it’s been amended over time, and it talks about the way in which we decide how many representatives there are for each state,” says Maria Andrade, an immigration attorney and the executive director of nonprofit Immigrant Justice Idaho.

“In that clause, it uses ‘actual’ enumeration,” Andrade says. “It uses terms like ‘numbers’ and ‘persons’ and not ‘citizens’ and ‘legal residents.’ So, it’s sort of a foundational premise about how the government will operate.”

Andrade says unequivocally, inclusion of the status question would suppress participation in the census. Inaccuracies in the count could impact numerous sectors across Idaho.

“Everything from disaster planning to investors deciding whether or not the population growth is something they want to invest in,” says Andrade. “And organizations even like ours that [rely] on data to figure out how to allocate resources.”

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments regarding the immigration status question next month.

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