The U.S. District Court of Northern California has ruled that the inclusion of a citizenship question on the 2020 U.S. Census violates federal law, handing California a victory in one of its 47 lawsuits against the Trump administration.
U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg said the citizenship question “threatens the very foundation of our democratic system — and does so based on a self-defeating rationale.” He ruled that the proposed census question violates the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and the Enumeration Clause.
Evidence shows that the question would deter immigrants and Latinos from responding, resulting in an undercount, he said.
The case stems from Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’ March 2018 announcement that the 2020 U.S. Census would include a question asking respondents about their citizenship status, arguing that it would help them enforce the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Attorney General Becerra and other opponents of the question have argued it could have huge implications for California, as the census count is used to appropriate federal funds and determine political representation.
“An undercount would threaten at least one of California’s seats in the House of Representatives (and, by extension, an elector in the electoral college,)” Becerra and Secretary of State Alex Padilla wrote in an op-ed published in the San Francisco Chronicle. “It would deprive California and its cities and counties of their fair share of billions of dollars in federal funds.”
Becerra celebrated the ruling, saying, in a statement, “Justice has prevailed for each and every Californian who should raise their hands to be counted in the 2020 Census without being discouraged by a citizenship question . . . we will ardently defend this important judgment to safeguard fairness in funding and representation for California and its local communities.”
A similar decision was reached in the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York in January, where U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman also found that the citizenship question violated federal law. The Supreme Court recently announced that it would hear the case in April.