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Judge Blocks White House From Adding Census Question

But issue of citizenship is likely headed to Supreme Court
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 15, 2019 10:25 AM CST
File photo of a man filling out a census form.   (Getty/jcamilobernal)

(Newser) – A federal judge in New York has barred the Trump administration from adding a question about citizenship to the 2020 census. US District Judge Jesse Furman said Tuesday that while such a question would be constitutional, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had added it arbitrarily and not followed proper procedure, per the AP. The ruling came in a case in which a dozen states or big cities and immigrant rights groups argued that adding the question might frighten immigrant households away from participating in the census. The decision, however, won't be the final word on the matter. A separate suit on the same issue, filed by the state of California, is underway in San Francisco. The US Supreme Court is also poised to address the issue in February.

The proposed question, which NPR notes hasn't been asked of US households since 1950: "Is this person a citizen of the United States?" The judge faulted Ross for how he went about adding the question. "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," wrote Furman in his decision. Plus, the judge says Ross failed to give Congress the necessary three years' notice for new census questions.

(Read more US Census stories.)

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