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Opening Statements Begin Today in Federal Trial Challenging Trump Administration’s 2020 Census Citizenship Question

For Immediate Release January 7, 2019

Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Public Counsel, and Manatt, Phelps & Phillips Claim Sec Ross Violated Administrative Procedure Act

 SAN FRANCISCO, CA – The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Public Counsel, along with law firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips will make opening statements today in a federal trial regarding 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, and trial is being held together with a similar claim brought by the State of California. The case will be heard in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.

This lawsuit was filed on April 17, 2018, immediately after Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced that the 2020 decennial census will include a question asking the citizenship status of every respondent. The suit claims that the addition of the citizenship question will depress participation rates among immigrant communities and communities of color, resulting in a significant undercount. The lawsuit claims that the addition of the citizenship question was arbitrary and capricious, in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”), and challenges the question’s constitutionality under the Enumeration Clause and Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

At trial, the lawsuit’s APA claim will focus on the scheme employed by Secretary Ross to get the citizenship question added to the 2020 Census. According to Census Bureau documents, Secretary Ross decided to add the citizenship question without justification, then subsequently pushed the Department of Justice to formally request the addition of the citizenship question to the 2020 Census. Additionally, Secretary Ross made his initial decision to add the question with full knowledge that it would impair the quality of Census data and that the addition of the question violated express legal requirements forbidding any new topics to be added to the Census after March 2017.

The lawsuit’s Enumeration Clause and Fourteenth Amendment claims are based on evidence that the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census will depress response rates among Black, Latinx, and immigrant communities. Areas such as San Jose, and other areas with large immigrant populations, will be directly affected because the Census count is used as the basis to distribute more than $675 billion annually in federal funding, as well as political representation in the House of Representatives and Electoral College.

 

Below are statements from:

Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law: “Secretary Ross’s decision to add the citizenship question was based on a flawed process that was exacerbated by discriminatory motivations that were concealed from the public until this litigation. Ross compelled his staff to concoct a cover story to try to legitimize this misbegotten decision, and overruled his scientific staff to achieve his goal. Through this litigation, we are fighting to preserve the integrity of the 2020 Census to help ensure a fair and accurate count of all people as required under the constitution.”

Sam Liccardo, Mayor of San Jose, CA: “In San Jose, everyone counts. Our values – and values held dear by millions of Americans – appear threatened by the Trump Administration’s political motives. Adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census will stoke fears and depress participation in diverse cities like San Jose, threatening hundreds of millions in funding for health, education, and other critical services upon which our entire community depends.”

John Libby, Partner at Manatt Phelps & Phillips: “Manatt Phelps & Phillips is pleased to co-counsel with the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in the trial of this important case on behalf of our clients the City of San Jose and the Black Alliance for Just Immigration.  This case challenges the arbitrary and capricious decision by Commerce Secretary Ross to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census.  We expect the evidence at trial to show – including evidence from the Census Bureau’s own analysis – that the addition of this question will depress the count of Hispanic and immigrant communities, will affect federal funding to the City of San Jose, and will spread fear among the immigrant community served by BAJI.”

Mark Rosenbaum of Public Counsel: “This trial will tell the real story behind the Trump Administration’s conspiracy to corrupt the Census for political gain. The Census is what counts for our democracy and this trial is about keeping those counts honest. We will prove that the Administration treated the Census as if it were a numbers game.”

Opal Tometi, Executive Director of BAJI: “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.”

Trial in this matter is expected to conclude on Tuesday, January 15, 2019.

To view the April 17 complaint, click here.

 

About the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination.  Now in its 55th year, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is continuing its quest to “Move America Toward Justice.” The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice for all, particularly in the areas of criminal justice, fair housing and community development, economic justice, educational opportunities, and voting rights. Learn more at Lawyerscommittee.org.

CONTACT: Derrick Robinson, Director of Communications, [email protected], (202) 662-8317

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