Federal Judge Blocks Trump Administration From Asking the Citizenship Question from 2020 Census

I have written about this question before. See https://duckduckgo.com/?q=site%3Aeogn.com+%222020+census%22&t=h_&ia=web for my past articles about the 2020 U.S. Census.

Now a New York Judge has ruled that the 2020 US Census may not include the proposed citizenship question. The opinion from US District Court of Southern District of New York Judge Furman stated:

“Secretary Ross’s decision to add a citizenship question to 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”.

Further, Judge Furman said “the plaintiffs had proved they would be harmed by the addition of the citizenship question”. He also said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross violated the Administrative Procedure Act, which governs how federal agencies develop regulations.” The later was because the Secretary “failed to consider several important aspects of the problem; the plaintiffs had proved they would be harmed by the addition of the citizenship question. Judge Furman also said Mr. Ross violated the Administrative Procedure Act, which governs how federal agencies develop regulations.

To read Judge Furman’s decision see:
https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/5684702-Findings-of-Fact-Conclusions-of-Law.html.

21 Comments

This decision will, obviously, be appealed.

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The question regarding citizenship was on the Census, to the point of asking IF one had put in papers for Naturalization/was Naturalized. So…what’s wrong with that??

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Perhaps someone should ask some older Japanese folks how that info would likely be misused in the future. Governments never pass laws or ask for information they don’t intend to use (usually against someone).

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The way things are going they probably won’t be starting to take the 2020 Census until 2025 (if at all).

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Whether or not you agree with an individual decision there is something fundamentally wrong with our government when one single unelected federal judge can eviscerate a law made by Congress or an administrative decision of the executive branch made under a grant of authority by Congress. It would seem decisions of this magnitude should be reviewed by a full court, not individual judges. Too many times plaintiffs go judge shopping and the decisions are overturned by the full body of the appeals court or Supreme Court.
Immigration, throughout our history has been a controversial topic. In the past we have had national debates regarding immigration policy and the issue has been properly addressed and resolved by action of Congress. Over the years Congress has loosened and tightened rules for immigration based on the needs of the nation at the time and the concerns of the electorate.
Given the issue is contentious today, it would be helpful to understand the size of the citizen and non-citizen population of the country. Today we are bombarded by widely varying population estimates in the media of the non-citizen and undocumented population. These estimates often seem driven by the political perspective of the organization issuing the estimates. I would prefer there be an attempt to quantify the information in upcoming census. As we who use the data in our research know, the census is not 100% accurate. However, a census count will be much more directionally accurate, when looking at the population in total, than estimates of activist groups pursuing a political agenda.

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    Well said! I so agree!

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    “….Whether or not you agree with an individual decision there is something fundamentally wrong with our government when one single unelected federal judge can eviscerate a law made by Congress or an administrative decision of the executive branch made under a grant of authority by Congress….“

    One single judge cannot eviscerate any law. Before this decision becomes final, it will be reviewed by several appellate judges and probably by all 9 judges of the Supreme Court, who will take into consideration the opinions of all the other judges, as well as the arguments presented by both sides. This is an essential part of the system of checks and balances set up by the Founding Fathers to protect our democracy by makng sure that no one branch of the government, no one region of the country, and no one faction or political party would be able to seize too much power and ride roughshod over everyone else the way jackbooted thugs are able to do in a dictatorship. A system of idependent judges who can take a long term view because they are insulated from the political whims of the moment, are an essential part of the wall that protects our own personal rights to petition our government, freely express our political opinions, choose where we worship (or don’t worship), our right to vote or run for office, our right to bear arms, and everything else that makes the United States a democracy.

    Democracy is difficult. It requires citizens to engage an ongoing conversation with fellow citizens whose ideas they don’t particularly like, to be willing to actually listen to what the other side has to say and try to find compromises that both can accept. Democracy is not for the faint of heart. It takes a lot of hard work. It takes time. It requires patience. It’s inefficient and sometimes incredibly frustrating, and nobody winds up getting everything they want when and where they want it all the time, but it’s the best system yet invented for building a great nation and keeping jt great for the long haul.

    Liked by 1 person

    Exactly. And how does one rogue judge in New York get jurisdiction over Congress and the executive branch?

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    Jurisdiction to hear the case comes from Article III, Section 1 of the US Constitution:
    “The judicial power of the United States, shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish….”

    Because this is a dispute between the State of New York and a New York organization on one side, and the Commerce Department of the United States of America on the other side, it falls into one of the categories of disputes that are within the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal courts, and the US District Court in NY was the proper federal court to initially hear and decide the case.

    If any party has a complaint about the District Court judge’s decision, that party is automatically entitled to appeal to the US Court of Appeals for the 2d Circuit where the District Court judge’s decision will be reviewed by a panel of appelllate judges. In addition, if they’re stilll not satisfied with the result in the appellate court, they can ask the US Supreme Court to hear a further appeal.

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    First: The Constitution, as written, does not give the federal courts, including the Supreme Court the power of judicial review. The power of judicial review was assumed by the Court itself in Marbury vs. Madison. The validity of the court’s action, and Justice Marshall’s opinion is still debated.

    Second: The inferior federal courts were created by Congress. The enabling legislation does not provide for judicial review by the lower courts. Therefore it can be argued individual federal judges cannot declare laws and regulations issue by the other co-equal branches of the government unconstitutional. It all depends on your perspective. The inferior courts have in this case seized power, not having been granted it by the Constitution or Congress.

    Third: If you read my original post carefully I spoke to an unelected individual federal judge making the decision to vacate an administrative decision of the executive branch, who’s head is elected, or declare a law passed by 435 of the people’s elected representatives unconstitutional. If federal courts are to have the power to overturn the decisions of the other co-equal branches, I would much prefer that power:
    1). Be added to the Constitution through the amendment process.
    2). Be limited to district or appeals courts be sitting (and voting) as a body, not simply the exercise of the opinion of one individual judge who may be attempting to negate the statute or regulation for political reasons or his personal opinion.

    One man’s opinion.

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    You make some good points, Charles, about Marbury vs. Madison, and the principle that the Court has the power to declare a law unconstitutional upon which Justice Marshall decided that case. Better minds than mine have been debating whether the case was correctly decided for the past 200 years and will probably continue to debate it for as long as the Constitution continues as the supreme law of the land, however I expect Dick’s readers are more interested in the impact this particular NY case will have on the 2020 US Census and on reading Judge Furman’s decision it doesn’t look to me as if the question of unconstitutionality played any part in it.
    The judge actually says that it wasn’t necessary for him to make a ruling on the constitutional arguments because he found the actions of the Secretary of Commerce to have violated the Administrative Procedure Act (a federal law passed by the US Congress) in a number of different ways, which the judge then proceeds to discuss in detail. (Side note: It probably didn’t help the Commerce Department’s case that the government apparently conceded the overall quality of the census was likely to suffer if the citizenship question were to be added to the questionnaire.)
    Anyway, the decision contains some information about the history of the census and the nuts and bolts groundwork behind the process of putting together he questionnaires that genealogists might find interesting.

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Citizenship is a relevant piece of information for genealogists. There was a citizenship question in the 1920 census. Finding that my grandfather was an alien was the first clue that I might be eligible for Italian citizenship, and I am now a dual citizen.

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Genealogists know that there is no guarantee that people will tell the truth to any census question. My Irish relatives in the 1880 census stated that the parents were born in Canada and the children in the United States. Actually, the parents were born in Ireland and the children in Canada. Lying on the census is a time honored American (and Canadian) tradition.

Liked by 1 person

My grandmother is listed in the 1920 census as “alien,” born in Wisconsin. In 1907 the law said if you married a non-citizen, you lost your citizenship.

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David Paul Davenport January 16, 2019 at 12:48 pm

The Judge seems to have based his decision on the contention that the Census Bureau didn’t adhere to the required three year notification to Congress. It is well known that the Trump Administration proposed this question in January, 2017. The date of the census is April 1, 2020. By my count this is more than three years. Is it possible that this Judge can’t count?

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    Nothing new here. Remember the immigration and naturalization questions in the 1900 census? I’m sure they have helped a lot of us.

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When will it be unlawful to put names of citizens on the census report?

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We need to search the back ground of this N Y judge he may have something to hide. I am very proud of my family back to Scotland is he ashame

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ayoung03@verizon.net January 22, 2019 at 11:45 am

I worked the 1990 and 2000 census’s – you record what you are told – you do not ask for copies of birth certificates or other legal documents – so this judge is 100% off base – what a shame that such people have been appointed to our legal system –
The citizen question MIGHT just give us a better understanding on how many non citizens we are supporting with our school , State , and Federal Tax dollars –
The census years ago was conducted by legal type people, perhaps we need to return to some of those olden days? I just hope the USSC makes their decision soon. Art Youmg

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It’s too bad there are people who want to use the census for the wrong reasons. I think it would be helpful to find out how many people are citizens as well as non-citizens for many of the reasons already stated. However there are too many people especially now that are pointing fingers at someone that appears different and tell them to go back to their country. Some of those yelled at have said their families have been here for generations, too much hate when everyone here started out with some immigrant, maybe even themselves. I have heard/read many reports about people focusing on specific countries but I have seen that the largest number of illegals are really from Canada. They look like the average US citizen and because of that they aren’t asked if they are a citizen or not. I guess to some people what someone looks like means more than if they are really legal or not! I have lines that came to America in the early 1600s, and others that came within the past couple of generations. I am thankful for their struggles and glad there are records like the census that can help me with my family genealogy. I hope it will be figured out to help the overall make up of our country and help us family genealogists! I would hate to have the census skipped or discontinued.

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