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Federal Court blocks Trump administration's push to add citizenship question to census

The case is expected to go before the Supreme Court

Alex Wong/Getty Images

A federal court has blocked the Trump administration's order to the U.S. Census Bureau to add a question regarding U.S. citizenship on the 2020 census. The case is now expected to go before the Supreme Court.

What question?

In March, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced that it would be adding a citizenship question to its next survey, which would take place in 2020.

The question previously had been on every iteration of the U.S. Census questionnaire between 1820 and 1950.

Why is the census important?

The Constitution requires the U.S. government to take a census of the population periodically in order to determine how many seats each state gets in the House of Representatives. It also plays a part in the allocation of federal funds, and the drawing of congressional districts. These censuses occur every 10 years.

What did the judge say?

On Tuesday, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled against the Trump administration.

In his opinion, U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman argued that "[h]undreds of thousands — if not millions — of people will go uncounted in the census if the citizenship question is included."

Furman said that the U.S. Department of Commerce, which oversees the Census Bureau, had failed to "consider all important aspects" of the decision to add this question.

Furman wrote that the question had been removed from the census in 1960 "and for decades thereafter the official position of the Census Bureau was that reintroducing such a question was inadvisable because it would depress the count for already "hard-to-count" groups — particularly noncitizens and Hispanics — whose members would be less likely to participate in the census for fear that the data could be used against them or their loved ones."

What happens now?

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear an appeal related to this case in February. If it chooses to overrule Furman at that time, the Census Bureau would still have enough time to add the citizenship question to its questionnaire.

One last thing…
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