Baltimore lawsuit argues Census citizenship question violates Constitution

BALTIMORE — A federal lawsuit filed Thursday argues the Trump administration’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 U.S. Census discriminates against minorities — in violation of the Constitution.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for Maryland, argues the citizenship question is designed to severely under-count Latinos, Asian-Americans, immigrants and other populations. That, in turn, dilutes their political representation and federal funding to their communities, in violation of the equal protection clause of the Fifth Amendment, the suit contends.

The suit asks the court to force the Trump administration to drop from the Census the question asking whether respondents are U.S. citizens.

“The inclusion of a citizenship question in the decennial Census … is motivated by racial animus towards Latinos, Asian Americans, and animus towards non-U.S. citizens and foreign-born persons,” the 90-page suit says.

Amid intense anti-immigrant rhetoric from President Donald Trump, civil rights and voting rights groups have repeatedly expressed concern that adding a citizenship question to the Census will be used to target immigrant communities and cause people who are U.S. citizens to avoid Census questionnaires.

The government relies on Census data to allocate seats in Congress, draw accurate election districts and ensure equitable distribution of federal funds for programs such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), Section 8 housing vouchers and special education grants.

The Census Bureau eliminated a question on citizenship after the 1950 Census. But late last year, the U.S Justice Department requested a citizenship question be added, calling it necessary to help enforce the federal Voting Rights Act — a claim the suit calls false.

The lawsuit also contends the citizenship question violates the government’s constitutional obligation to count every person living in the United States once each decade.

The suit came in response to an order to add the question by Commerce Secretary Ross Wilbur Ross days before the April 1 deadline for finalizing the 2020 Census questionnaire. The suit charges Ross violated the federal Administrative Procedure Act by adding the question without conducting a required assessment of its impact on an accurate Census count and without adequate explanation of how the information the citizenship question elicited would be used.

The suit’s 23 plaintiffs include Latino and Asian-American nonprofits, civil rights groups, state legislative associations and voters rights organizations.

The suit names as defendants Ross, Census Bureau Director Ron Jarmin and the agencies they head.

Neither the Commerce Department nor the Census Bureau could immediately be reached for comment.

This article is republished with permission from Talk Media News.