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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 8, 2018 - Volume 46 Issue 23
ACLU, immigrants' rights groups sue Trump administration over census citizenship question
Section One
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ACLU, immigrants' rights groups sue Trump administration over census citizenship question

NEW YORK - The American Civil Liberties Union, New York Civil Liberties Union, and Arnold & Porter filed a federal lawsuit [on June 6] on behalf of immigrants' rights groups challenging the Trump administration's plan to include a citizenship question on the 2020 census.

The groups charge that Trump's order intentionally discriminates against immigrants and thwarts the constitutional mandate to accurately count the US population. Plaintiffs are Casa de Maryland, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the ADC Research Institute, the New York Immigration Coalition, and Make the Road New York.

There has not been a citizenship question on the US decennial census in nearly 70 years. The addition of that question - essentially a door-to-door government inquiry into the citizenship status of every member of every household in the nation - would sow more fear among immigrant communities, ultimately suppressing census participation.

It is the reason the Trump administration sought to add the question, rejecting the advice of the Census Bureau's professional staff, its scientific advisory committee, and five previous census directors from both Republican and Democratic administrations.

Lower response rates would hurt states with large immigrant communities, causing them to lose seats in Congress and see reductions in crucial federal funding streams tied to census data.

Depressing census response rates in already underrepresented communities will allow politicians to draw even more skewed legislative districts and further dilute the economic and political power of immigrant communities.

The lawsuit, New York Immigration Coalition v. United States Department of Commerce, cites constitutional and statutory violations. It was filed in US District Court in the Southern District of New York. The defendants are the US Department of Commerce, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and the US Census Bureau.

Below are statements from [the following]:

" Sarah Brannon, managing attorney, ACLU's Voting Rights Project: 'President Trump is adding the citizenship question into his toxic stew of racist rants and draconian policies in order to stoke fear, undercount, and strip political power from immigrant communities.'

" Steven Choi, executive director, New York Immigration Coalition: 'A citizenship question on the US census is toxic to New York's four million immigrants and all New Yorkers, who stand to lose millions of dollars in federal aid and representation in Congress. We will use every tool at our disposal to fight for a fair and accurate count. This is our New York and we're not going to lose a dime, or our voices, to the Trump administration in Washington DC.'

" Javier H. Vald├ęs, co-executive director, Make the Road New York: 'The Trump administration is systematically trying to undercount immigrants to silence our voices and strip our communities of vital resources that benefit immigrants and non-immigrants alike. Our members will resist this latest attack on our communities and fight for a full, fair 2020 census - in the courts, in the streets, and in the halls of Congress.'

" Gustavo Torres, executive director, CASA: 'The addition of this question to the census is clearly a systematic and racist attempt on behalf of the Trump administration to literally have immigrants erased from the records, to have their contributions ignored and discounted. CASA, along with our allies representing immigrants across the country, call upon the court to defend the fundamental principles of equal justice enshrined in the Constitution and reject this attempt to silence our community.'

" Samer Khalaf, president, ADC: 'The inclusion of a citizenship question on the 2020 census will have a discriminatory impact on minority communities, especially Arab-Americans, across the country. This is an obvious attempt by the administration to drastically diminish the political voice of people of color. The inclusion of the citizenship question will lead to a decline in the census response rate. The resulting impact will have a negative effect on the redistricting process, and the access of minority communities to desperately needed government services and funding. It is our hope the courts will do the right thing and strike the question from the census.'

" Donna Lieberman, executive director, New York Civil Liberties Union: 'The Trump administration is shamelessly weaponizing the census to wage its war on communities of color, immigrants, and the poor. New Yorkers refuse to be undercounted, discriminated against, or driven into the shadows. We are fighting back against this thinly veiled effort to cut back our representation in Congress and to deny New Yorkers their fair share of government resources.'

" John A. Freedman, partner, Arnold & Porter: 'The decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 US census needs to be understood as part of a string of government actions to promote fear of the government among immigrants and minority communities. The question is intended to and will reduce participation of these communities in the census. We are proud to stand with our clients and co-counsel to stop these communities from being deprived of fair representation and critical funds.'

The complaint is at https://www.aclu.org/legal-document/nyic-v-dept-commerce-complaint.

More information is at https://www.aclu.org/cases/new-york-immigration-coalition-v-united-states-department-commerce.

Courtesy of the ACLU of Washington

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