Census citizenship trial slated to begin

The Justice Department is set to defend the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 census as a trial over the issue opens in federal court in New York on Monday.

The case, in which a number of states and civil rights organizations allege a political motive in Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s decision to reinstate the question in the census, has been the subject of unsuccessful postponement attempts by the Trump administration. On Friday, the Supreme Court allowed it to move forward, and as a result, it is scheduled to begin before U.S. District Judge Jesse M. Furman in Manhattan federal court.

The plaintiffs, which are led by the New York attorney general’s office, argue that Ross’s reason for adding the question, which hasn’t been asked of all census recipients since 1950, was to dissuade immigrants from participating. Because census figures are used to allocate congressional seats and determine federal funding for certain government programs, undercounting of immigrant populations could negatively impact their representation.

Last March, when Ross announced the reinstatement of the question, which asks respondents whether they are US citizens, he said the Justice Department had requested the change in part because the information would be useful for the enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. Ross said at the time that the question could affect response rates.

The Supreme Court had previously barred the plaintiffs from taking Ross’s deposition, but said the deposition of other officials can take place.