The Census Citizenship Question Might Be Discriminatory, According To A Judge

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The Trump administration is facing legal pushback regarding its decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, and on Friday, one judge pointed to the president's derogatory comments about immigrants while ruling that a lawsuit against the change was allowed to proceed, according to The Huffington Post. Specifically, the judge said the census citizenship question may have been discriminatory when considered in conjunction with President Trump's rhetoric regarding immigration to the United States.

"While these statements were not made specifically in relation to the citizenship question they are nonetheless relevant to understanding the administration’s motivations," wrote U.S. District Judge George Hazel. "And while the use of racial slurs, epithets, or other derogatory language does not alone prove discriminatory intent, it is evidence that official action may be motivated by such an unlawful purpose."

Hazel explained that while "the administration was considering the citizenship question addition, President Trump" made comments about communities that plaintiffs on the case represent. Specifically, Hazel pointed to Trump's Jan. 11 statement about "these people from 'shithole countries' coming to the United States," as well as what Hazel described as "his degrading comparisons of immigrants to 'animals.'"

If the citizenship question is allowed to remain on the 2020 census, it would be the first time that the question has appeared on a decennial census since 1950, according to the Pew Research Center.

The Census Bureau asks about citizenship status on the American Community Survey, an ongoing survey that is sent out to several million people each year, but it does not ask about citizenship the decennial census, which is sent to every household in the United States. Critics of the recently re-added citizenship question argue that asking about citizenship would deter many immigrants from responding to the census.

If a large group of the population were to opt out of responding to the census, there could be long-term implications because census results impact how political districts are drawn. If immigrant groups weren't counted, the districts they live in could be altered in a way that would discount their residence therein, effectively reducing their political voice. This could affect the way that federal dollars are spent, according to The Huffington Post.

In turn, the Trump administration has argued that asking about citizenship could help the government enforce the Voting Rights Act. Though it's not clear how the lawsuit will ultimately play out, this particularly lawsuit, which moved forward on Friday, marks just one of several similar cases currently working their way through the legal system.

In a separate complaint from one of the other cases, which was shared online by the ACLU earlier this month, for example, plaintiffs have argued that the decision to add the citizenship question to the census was a "naked act of intentional discrimination directed at immigrant communities of color that is intended to punish their presence, avoid their recognition, stunt their growing political power, and deprive them and the communities in which they live of economic benefits."

It's unclear how any of the judges presiding over any of the lawsuits will ultimately decide. However, as the Trump administration has made litigating immigration and immigrant communities a top priority, it's likely that the battle over the citizenship question will continue to garner a lot of public attention.