Judge Jesse Furman, from the Southern District of New York, ruled in mid-January that the Trump administration could not add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.
The census is used to count the nation’s population, which includes hundreds of thousands of Caribbean nationals, some undocumented.It also includes questions which provide answers that policy makers useto address issues such as allocating resources.
Immigrants from the Caribbean and other communities supportedFurman’s decision.
“I celebrate this ruling with the millions of immigrants throughout our city and our country who feared they would be targeted or silenced if this question were allowed to tarnish and bias the census,” Jumaane D. Williams, Caribbean American New York City Council member, told the Caribbean Media Corporation.
Critics of the Trump plan believe the citizenship question is not necessary and forcing respondents to answer it would lead to immigrants and minorities shying away from participating in the census. Immigrants, including those from the Caribbean, have expressed reluctance to answer the citizenship question, fearing they would be eventually targeted by discriminatory policies.
“This ruling is a forceful rebuke of the Trump administration’s attempt to weaponize the census for an attack on immigrant communities,” Dale Ho, director of the Voting Rights Project at the Amercian Civil Liberties Union, which represented some plaintiffs at the trial, stated in a release.
Participation in the censusis required under law.A U.S. resident can be fined for failing to complete and return the census form or for falsely answering census questions.
Some critics also argued that the inclusion of the citizenship question was a deliberate attempt by the Trump administration to reduce participation in the census by immigrants and minorities, therefore allowing it to make policy to benefit a select category of people in the U.S.
The suit was filed by a combination of 18 states, plus some cities and immigrant rights organizations.
The judge, in a written decision, explained that adding the citizenship question violated federal law. Under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), the judge ruled, agencies cannot change a policy without conducting careful study, which the judge said the administration didn’t do under the guidance of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who is in charge of the U.S. Census Bureau.
“Secretary Ross’s decision to add a citizenship question was ‘arbitrary and capricious’ on its own terms,” Furman wrote.
“He failed to consider several important aspects of the problem; alternately ignored, cherry-picked, or badly misconstrued the evidence in the record before him; acted irrationally both in light of that evidence and his own stated decisional criteria; and failed to justify significant departures from past policies and practices - a veritable smorgasbord of classic, clear-cut APA violations.”
The judge explained that adding the citizenship question did not mean the question itself was unconstitutional nor was its intent to discriminate.Those opposed to the citizenship question are convinced the judge’s ruling stopped an injustice.
“The evidence at trial, including from the government’s own witness, exposed how adding a citizenship question would wreck the once-in-a-decade count of the nation’s population,” Ho’s statement added. “The inevitable result would have been - and the administration’s clear intent was - to strip federal resources and political representation from those needing it most.”