In response to a lawsuit filed by Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Public Counsel on behalf of the city of San Jose and the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, Judge Richard Seeborg of the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California today ruled that Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross’ efforts to place a citizenship question on the 2020 U.S. Census violate the Enumeration Clause of the U.S. Constitution and the Administrative Procedure Act.
“Judge Seeborg found that Secretary Ross and the other defendants violated the U.S. Constitution when they decided to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census despite clear evidence that the question would result in an undercount of minority and immigrant communities,” said Manatt partner John Libby. “We are pleased with this ruling, and look forward to defending it, including in the Supreme Court.”
In his decision, Judge Seeborg stated that “the inclusion of the citizenship question on the 2020 Census threatens the very foundation of our democratic system.” Agreeing with the team’s argument that the question’s addition would be arbitrary and capricious, Judge Seeborg noted that the question would directly violate multiple sections of the 1976 Census Act. In addition, he explained that the question would violate the U.S. Constitution because of the specific impact it would have on noncitizen and Latino communities, and that efforts to amend the effects through non-response-follow-up could in fact exacerbate the undercount of those populations.
The lawsuit was filed in April 2018 immediately after Wilbur Ross announced that the 2020 Census would include a question asking the citizenship status of every respondent. It argued that the addition of a citizenship question would depress participation rates among immigrant communities and communities of color, resulting in a significant undercount.