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Federal judge rejects citizenship question on 2020 census

By Nicholas Sakelaris
Federal judge rejects citizenship question on 2020 census
A federal judge ordered the citizenship question to be removed from the 2020 census. The Trump administration will likely appeal the decision. Photo by Gil C/Shutterstock

Jan. 15 (UPI) -- A federal judge ordered Tuesday that the Trump administration remove a question about U.S. citizenship on the 2020 census.

U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman said Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross exceeded his authority under federal law by adding the question to next year's census.

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"Secretary Ross's decision to add a citizenship question in the 2020 census -- even if it did not violate the Constitution itself -- was unlawful for a multitude of independent reasons and must be set aside," Furman wrote in his ruling. "To conclude otherwise and let Secretary Ross's decision stand would undermine the proposition -- central to the rule of law -- that ours is a government of laws, not of men."

The issue of asking whether someone is a U.S. citizen on the 2020 census will likely end up in the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and, ultimately, the Supreme Court. Questions about citizenship status haven't been asked by census takers since the 1950s.

RELATED Study: Most unauthorized immigrants are long settled in U.S.

The American Civil Liberties Union joined California and New York in fighting the citizenship question on grounds that undocumented immigrants might be afraid to respond to the census, resulting in an inaccurate tally.

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Tuesday's ruling came at a time the Trump administration is raising concerns of a humanitarian crisis at the southern border, and requiring $5.7 billion to build a wall. The stalemate with Congress has caused the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.

Ross first proposed the citizenship question last March as a way to better enforce Voting Rights Act provisions that protect racial and language minorities from discrimination.

RELATED Supreme Court allows census trial to proceed

The administration is also facing five other lawsuits against the citizenship question, though they haven't started yet.

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