Victory for border community representation in the 2020 Census

Residents of the Rio Grande Valley have struck a victory against the efforts of the Trump administration to under count Latinos in the 2020 Census.

children hold census outreach materials that say "todo el mundo CUENTA", or "everyone counts"A federal court in Maryland ruled this month that the Trump administration cannot add a Citizenship question to the 2020 Census. It is the third ruling by federal courts against the administration’s attempts to include the question in the decennial population count mandated by the Constitution.

Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) brought the lawsuit on behalf of LUPE and our members, who charge that a severe undercount would impact our community through loss of federal funding for schools, roads, and social programs. Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC (Advancing Justice | AAJC) is co-council on the lawsuit.

“The inclusion of the citizenship question in Census 2020 is patently illegitimate,” said Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel of MALDEF. “Three judges, after extensive trials, have now concluded that Wilbur Ross added the question for wholly inappropriate reasons, and then lied to the public and Congress about his motivation. The federal government should immediately remove this tainted question from Census 2020.”

Our lawsuit against the Citizenship question in the 2020 Census is part of the work of LUPE members to create a border region where families can remain together and all can thrive. LUPE helps low-income residents of the South Texas border organize themselves to build power, create opportunities, and win a better quality of life. LUPE defends the rights of border residents through legal aid, community organizing, and community partnerships.

“We count. But the Trump administration doesn’t think so,” said Juanita Valdez-Cox. “Our Rio Grande Valley communities are hard working. As Latinos, we sacrifice so much for the good of our families. An accurate census count brings more resources to our region, which can help us provide a better life for our families and can help the entire community advance. We fight the citizenship question because the racial animus the administration has shown toward Latinos and non-Citizens has divided our families and held our communities back.”

The federal judge found that the addition violates the Enumeration Clause of the U.S. Constitution and the Administrative Procedure Act. The court fell short of ruling that the White House purposefully sought to exclude non-citizens, particularly immigrants of color, from the decennial Census in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fifth Amendment.

The administration has appealed the decision. MALDEF and Advancing Justice | AAJC have filed a cross-appeal on the sole question of whether the Administration’s motive for the question was racially discriminatory.

The district court found that Trump and his advisors are motivated by racial animus toward immigrants. The court also found that Sec. Ross, Trump’s top Census official, “considered the impact of counting illegal immigrants in the Census” at the urging of the president’s advisors and that he knew full well that the effect would be detrimental to Latinos, Asian Americans and other hard to count populations.

Supreme Court law recognizes that officials don’t have to admit their racial animus to be found to have engaged in intentional discrimination. The district court has already found abundant circumstantial evidence that discriminatory motives were behind the addition of the citizenship question.

As MALDEF national senior counsel Denise Hulett summarizes, “That evidence places the gun in Secretary Ross’s hand, identifies the discriminatory sources of the bullets, and describes the smoke that will obscure and distort the census count.”

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