Advocates for minority communities breathed a sigh of relief after a federal court ruled against the Trump administration’s push to include a citizenship question on the upcoming 2020 Census.
However, the legal battle over how political power and resources are distributed will likely continue.
U.S. District Court Jesse M. Furman ordered the administration on Tuesday to “cure the legal defects,” prompting the NAACP to praise the ruling.
“The addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census only increases the likelihood of a substantial undercount of immigrant communities, particularly immigrants of color including those from the African Diaspora who are essential to determining U.S. elections, congressional seats and federal funding decisions for a decade,” Derrick Johnson, NAACP president, said in a statement.
Including the question in the census would likely deter families with non-citizen members not to participate in the population count, which the U.S. Constitution requires every 10 years. Since the lion’s share of those types of families live in large urban cities, an undercount would impact the African-American communities that live there.
The population count determines the allocation of the House of Representatives’ 435 seats, as well as state and local legislatures in many jurisdictions. An undercount in large cities would mean that they would lose seats in Congress and their state legislature to smaller, non-urban communities.
At the same time, the census also determines how the federal government distributes funding to state and local governments for a range of public services, including education, various state health care programs (including Medicaid), and housing—to name just a few.
Non-government entities also use the census data. For example, companies from retailers to real estate developers and banks use the demographic information for planning and investment, as well as to locate customers.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the Commerce Department, which oversees the census, include 18 states and several cities and jurisdictions, along with civil rights groups, the Washington Post said. They accused Trump’s Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross of including the citizenship question at the request of the president’s far-right advisors who have a political agenda to undercount immigrants and minorities.
Ross rejected the accusation that including the citizenship question was politically motivated, claiming that the Justice Department wanted the data to enforce voting rights laws.
“We are disappointed and are still reviewing the ruling,” a Justice Department spokesperson said.
The Trump administration was expected to appeal Furman’s ruling—all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.
This ruling a widely viewed as one battle in a much bigger war.
“We must continue to stay vigilant and not let this administration use yet another mechanism to devalue and stifle the voices of people of color,” the NAACP stated.