By TRONE DOWD
As the nation inches closer to the 2020 census, controversy surrounding the approval of a certain citizenship question may soon evolve into a national lawsuit.
Last Thursday, Manhattan federal judge the Hon. Jesse Furman ruled that a lawsuit filed against the U.S. Census Bureau and Commerce Department by New York State and the New York Immigrant Coalition (NYIC) can move forward. The lawsuit claims that a question asking participants about their citizenship status was added to the upcoming census to hamper states with a high volume of immigrant communities.
The last time a question related to citizenship appeared on the U.S. Census was in 1950.
While the U.S. Department of Justice insists that the question is being asked to get a better headcount of citizens who are able to vote, those who have filed the lawsuit claim otherwise.
According to court documents, Furman concluded that although the citizenship question is a completely legal addition to the 2020 census, it is plausible that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s reasons for reinstating the question could be based on discriminatory efforts.
“Assuming the truth of [the] plaintiffs’ allegations and drawing all reasonable inferences in their favor,” Furman wrote in his decision, “they plausibly allege that Secretary Ross’s decision to reinstate the citizenship question on the 2020 census was motivated by discriminatory animus and that its application will result in a discriminatory effect.”
Furman added that New York State and the NYIC have a plausible case due to statements made by “decision-makers”—including President Donald Trump—who have shown clear intent to thin out the number of immigrants coming from countries that his administration deems less desirable.
The long-lasting impact that this question could have on the state has left lawmakers, advocacy groups and New York residents frustrated. At a Queens Borough Board meeting last month, Joseph Salvo, the Department of City Planning’s (DCP) population director, told the Queens Tribune that much of the state’s federal funding and congressional power is determined by the census.
“The delegation size for each state is based upon the population count,” Salvo said. “We draw political districts based on those population counts and a lot of federal money gets distributed each year.”
According to the DCP, the distribution of up to $600 billion in federal funding is decided, in part, by census data.
New York has approximately 4.4 million immigrants, according to the NYIC, accounting for a significant portion of the population, particularly in the five boroughs. New York is not alone in its efforts; this lawsuit is one of six filed against the Census Bureau.
Furman’s decision appeared to bolster confidence among members of the NYIC.
“New York’s 4.4 million immigrants will be counted, regardless of Trump’s attempts to keep us down,” said NYIC Executive Director Steven Choi. “New Yorkers are not going to lose a dime or our voices to D.C.”
New York State Attorney General Barbara Underwood agreed.
“As we’ve argued, the Trump administration’s plan to demand citizenship status as part of the census is unlawful—and it would potentially cause a huge undercount that would threaten billions in federal funds and New York’s fair representation in Congress and the Electoral College,” Underwood said. “We won’t stop fighting to ensure that the federal government fulfills its responsibility of a full and fair census.”