The Trump regime's goal is long-term structural damage to the Obama coalition, and part of that is robbing traditionally large-population blue states of political power. One method the Trump White House was counting on is by attaching a citizenship question on the 2020 Census for two reasons, one, giving knowingly false information on a census form is a crime, and two, to cause a chilling response by undocumented immigrants and their families, who under current law are still counted by the Census, but would reveal their status to the Trump regime for almost certain targeting by ICE.
The legal fight over this was always headed for the Supreme Court, but along the way we were going to see whether or not the Trump regime would be blocked by lower federal courts in the the meantime as they prepared the 2020 Census questionnaire. Today we got the first real answer to that question, and it was a resounding yes.
A federal judge has ruled against the Trump administration’s addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census.
In the first major ruling on the controversial question, Judge Jesse M. Furman of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ordered the administration to stop its plans to add the question to the survey “without curing the legal defects” identified in his opinion.
Plaintiffs hailed the decision. “This ruling is a forceful rebuke of the Trump administration’s attempt to weaponize the census for an attack on immigrant communities,” said Dale Ho, director of the Voting Rights Project at the ACLU, which was a plaintiff in the case.
The Trump administration had tried several times to stop the case from going forward, including requests to the Supreme Court; the adminstration is likely to appeal Furman’s decision in the high court.
Plaintiffs in the trial include 18 states and several cities and jurisdictions, along with civil rights groups. The trial addressed two of seven lawsuits that arose from Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s March decision to add the question. Two more trials over the questions are underway or about to begin.
Opponents of the question say it will reduce response rates in immigrant communities and make the constitutionally mandated decennial survey more costly and less accurate. The government had said the question was necessary to enforce the Voting Rights Act.
Justice Department spokesperson Kelly Laco, said, “We are disappointed and are still reviewing the ruling,” and added that the government is “legally entitled to include the question on the census.”
A key question in the leadup to the trial was where the request for the question had originated. Ross testified before Congress that it came from the Justice Department, but documents released in the case indicated that he had asked the Justice Department to make the request after consulting with White House adviser Steve Bannon and others.
Census experts applauded Furman’s ruling. “The Administration decided to play fast and loose with the census and received a strong, direct rebuke from the federal courts,” said Thomas Wolf, counsel with the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. “Today’s ruling puts the wind at the backs of the challengers, not just in this case, but in all of the cases challenging the citizenship question around the country.”
Those include a trial currently underway in California and another due to begin next Tuesday in Maryland, both of which the administration has sought, unsuccessfully, to stop.
So we'll see where this goes. Again, this was always headed for the Roberts Court and sooner rather than later, given the import, but it's good to see that the case appears to be headed in the right direction for now.