A third federal judge on Friday ruled against the Trump administration’s plan to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, concluding that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross illegally “manufactured” a false reason to add the controversial question and wrote a “misleading” memo to justify the move.
U.S. District Judge George Hazel issued a 119-page decision in Maryland that supported rulings issued in January and March by federal judges in New York and California. All three judges were nominated by President Barack Obama.
Hazel wrote that Ross repeatedly ignored the advice of researchers and career staff at the Census Bureau, who concluded that citizenship data could best be obtained through other means.
“The Census Bureau repeatedly, consistently, and unanimously recommended against adding a citizenship question to the 2020 decennial census,” Hazel said.
To justify his decision, Ross pressured the Department of Justice for months to make a formal request for the citizenship question, which Hazel described as a “manufactured” reason. The judge said Ross then “failed to disclose the true basis for his decision” in public pronouncements and testimony before Congress.
Hazel also declared the administration’s action unconstitutional because it would “unreasonably” compromise the accuracy of the census, which is used to apportion congressional districts and distribute more than $900 billion in federal funds. An undercount of immigrant-heavy communities could cause states such as California, New York, Texas and Florida to lose representation and federal grant money.