Census 2020: Closing Argument in Case Challenging Trump's Bid To Undercount Black and Latino Immigrants

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Donald Trump tries Census funnygames. Photo: Gage Skidmore--Flickr

Today, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Public Counsel, along with law firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips will deliver closing arguments in  the City of San Jose v. Ross, a lawsuit that challenges the late addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census by the United States Department of Commerce and the Census Bureau. 

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the City of San Jose and the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BLJI). The trial is being held together with a similar claim brought by the State of California. Today’s closing arguments are being heard in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.

“Our case has presented overwhelming evidence that the administration’s goal in adding a citizenship question was to discourage and deter immigrants and communities of color from participating, an ill-conceived strategy largely driven by Steve Bannon and Kris Kobach who are notorious for promoting an anti-immigrant agenda,” said Kristen Clarke, President and Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “The census count stands as one of the most critical constitutional functions our federal government performs and this administration has taken extraordinary steps to jeopardize the possibility of achieving a full and fair count. The evidence in our case makes clear that the Commerce Department’s addition of the citizenship question runs contrary to the constitution and to the data provided by scientists that makes clear that an undercount would be the inevitable result. The administration’s claim that the citizenship question is needed to help enforce the Voting Rights Act is not only false but fully at odds with an administration that has proven hostile to minority voters at every stage.”

San Jose and BAJI filed this lawsuit in April 2018, immediately after Department of Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross, announced that the 2020 decennial census would include a question asking the citizenship status of every respondent. At trial, the plaintiffs argued that the addition of the citizenship question would depress participation rates among immigrant communities and communities of color, resulting in a significant undercount. The lawsuit claimed that the addition of question was arbitrary and capricious, in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”), and challenged the question’s constitutionality under the Enumeration Clause and Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

“The City of San Jose is seeking to ensure that every resident is counted in next year's census in order to have fair representation in Congress as well as a fair distribution of federal funds.  After a week-long trial, we look forward to a decision from the District Court,” Rick Boyle, the City Attorney, San Jose, said. 

“The indisputable evidence is that Secretary Ross seeks to weaponize the Census by discounting people of color in low-income communities, turning it to partisan advantage predicated upon deliberate falsification of the numbers," said Mark Rosenbaum of Public Counsel. "The Census Bureau was established to be above politics. What this trial has shown is that the Administration wants it instead to be about politics."  

“In our closing arguments on behalf of our clients City of San Jose and Black Alliance for Just Immigration, we reviewed the evidence of Secretary Ross’s arbitrary, capricious and unlawful decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census against the clear and undisputed evidence, much from the Census Bureau’s own professional scientists, that the question will result in a differential undercount of Hispanic and immigrant populations, resulting in severe effects on our clients, including reduced federal funding, and degraded quality of Census data our clients rely on.  We urged the court not to let this improper effort to suppress the constitutionally mandated count of all persons stand,” said John Libby, Partner at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips.

“As we inch closer to the 2020 Census, the Trump Administration is pulling out all stops in their attempt to suppress the participation of people of color, specifically Black immigrants. We are a critical part of the American fabric and we will not allow this administration’s lies and harmful tactics to deter us from participation. No matter what, we must stand up and we must be counted,” said Opal Tometi, Executive Director of BAJI.

 

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