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Judge Orders Government to Remove Citizenship Question from Census

By William Vogeler, Esq. on January 17, 2019 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Finding a government decision "arbitrary and capricious," a federal judge ordered the Trump administration to remove a citizenship question it added to the 2020 census.

In State of New York v. United States Department of Commerce, Judge Jesse Furman said the question violated statutory but not constitutional law. The judge said the Secretary of Commerce violated the public trust by including the citizenship question in the census.

The question? "Is this person a citizen of the United States?" The answer? None required, the judge said.

None of the Above

Furman ruled in favor of the State of New York and the New York Immigration Coalition. Dozens of states, cities and other groups are asking for the same relief in five similar cases around the country.

One trial is underway in California, and another is set to begin in Maryland later this month. In the New York case, Furman held an eight-day trial before issuing a decision.

He said Secretary Wilbur Ross violated the Administrative Procedure Act in "various ways." Ross "alternately ignored, cherry-picked, or badly misconstrued the evidence in the record" in a veritable "smorgasbord of classic, clear-cut APA violations."

However, he said the the plaintiffs did not prove the secretary violated the Constitution. They claimed Ross violated the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment because he included the citizenship question motivated by "invidious discrimination" against immigrants.

Long, But Necessary

Well aware that his decision would be appealed, Furman said his 277-page opinion was "to put it mildly, long. But for good reason."

He said the citizenship question would dissuade people -- primarily Hispanic immigrants -- from participating in the census. Hundreds of thousands, "if not millions, of people will go uncounted in the census if the citizenship question is included," the judge said.

Justice Department lawyers had asked Furman to delay proceeding in the case, pending a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court over an evidence dispute. They pledged to ask for a stay from the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals if he ruled against them.

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