Federal judge blocks Trump administration from adding citizenship question to 2020 Census, but legal fight continues

Written by: Sarah Hughes
Date Posted: January 18, 2019

Earlier this week, a federal judge blocked the Trump administration from asking a question about citizenship status on the 2020 Census. The decision came after more than a dozen states across the country, including Colorado, brought a lawsuit seeking to stop the inclusion of the citizenship question. Tuesday’s decision is the first among several expected in the coming months, as the administration faces a total of six lawsuits seeking to remove the question from the census.

In the 277-page decision released Tuesday, the judge found that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who oversees the Census Bureau, violated the Administrative Procedures Act and broke a “smorgasbord” of rules when he made the decision to add an unnecessary and untested citizenship question to the census forms. Ross announced his decision in March 2018, ignoring the advice of Census Bureau scientists who warned that including the question could dramatically decrease response rates and result in an inaccurate census.

Although Judge Furman’s decision is a victory for advocates for a fair and accurate census, the legal fight is not over. The Trump administration has already appealed the decision and it is expected that the case will eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court. A decision about whether the question can be included will need to be reached prior to June 2019, when the Census Bureau expects to begin printing 2020 Census materials.

The Children’s Campaign applauds the judge’s decision to block the administration from asking about citizenship status on the census, recognizing how critical an accurate census is to the well-being of kids and families in our state. The consequences of an inaccurate census count are dire. Census data are used to allocate more than $600 billion in federal funding to states each year, and also determine political representation in the U.S. Congress. Including a question about citizenship status on a census form that all households in the country are required to complete will discourage census participation in communities that are already hard to count, and result in lost funding and less political representation for Coloradans in Washington.

For more information on why the citizenship question is unnecessary and harmful, click here to read our past coverage on the issue.

Sarah Hughes

About Sarah Hughes

Sarah Hughes is Vice President of Research Initiatives for the Colorado Children’s Campaign. In this role, she leads the organization’s research and data analysis efforts, including the development and publication of the annual KIDS COUNT in Colorado! report, and provides research and data support to inform and advance the Children’s Campaign’s policy agenda. She also co-chairs the organization’s internal Equity Team. Prior to joining the Children’s Campaign, Sarah worked in communications and spent several years working and volunteering with kids in various capacities.