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La Union Del Pueblo Entero v. Ross

Numerous Asian-American and Latino groups filed a lawsuit against Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross challenging the Commerce Department’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. The plaintiffs argue that the Department’s decision violates the U.S. Constitution and the Administrative Procedure Act. This case is pending in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland.

Last Updated: October 14, 2019
Published: July 12, 2019

Summary

Asian-Amer­ican and Latino groups filed a lawsuit against Commerce Secret­ary Wilbur Ross chal­len­ging the Commerce Depart­ment’s decision to add a citizen­ship ques­tion to the 2020 Census. The plaintiffs argue that the Depart­ment’s decision viol­ated the U.S. Consti­tu­tion and the Admin­is­trat­ive Proced­ure Act.

This case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Mary­land and resul­ted in a court order block­ing the citizen­ship ques­tion. 

Case Back­ground Twenty-five Asian-Amer­ican, African-Amer­ican, Native-Amer­ican, Latino, and immig­rant groups sued Commerce Secret­ary Wilbur Ross, the Depart­ment of Commerce, the Acting Director of the Census Bureau, and the Census Bureau for the Commerce Depart­ment’s decision to add a citizen­ship ques­tion to the 2020 Census. The plaintiffs alleged the addi­tion of the ques­tion would discour­age Lati­nos, Asian-Amer­ic­ans, African-Amer­ic­ans, Native Amer­ic­ans, and noncit­izens from respond­ing to the census form, and result in a dispro­por­tion­ate under­count, consequently dilut­ing their polit­ical repres­ent­a­tion and federal fund­ing to their communit­ies.

The suit conten­ded the ques­tion was inten­ded to severely under­count Latino, Asian Amer­ic­ans, immig­rants, and other popu­la­tions, a viol­a­tion of the equal protec­tion clause of the Fifth Amend­ment. The plaintiffs also alleged the decision infringed the federal govern­ment’s duty to conduct an “actual enumer­a­tion” of every person in this county and appor­tion congres­sional seats based upon a count of “the whole number of persons,” viol­at­ing the Appor­tion­ment and Enumer­a­tion Clauses of the U.S. Consti­tu­tion and the Admin­is­trat­ive Proced­ures Act (APA). Finally, the plaintiffs alleged that Secret­ary Ross and the Acting Director of the Census Bureau conspired with others – includ­ing members of the Trump Admin­is­tra­tion – to viol­ate the equal protec­tion rights of Lati­nos, African Amer­ic­ans, Asian Amer­ic­ans, Native Amer­ic­ans, and foreign-born persons. 

During the motion to dismiss brief­ing, the Bren­nan Center filed an amicus brief with the Lead­er­ship Confer­ence on Civil and Human Rights, the Lead­er­ship Confer­ence Educa­tion Fund, Muslim Advoc­ates and the National Coali­tion on Black Civic Parti­cip­a­tion, support­ing the plaintiffs in their efforts to block the citizen­ship ques­tion.

On Decem­ber 19, 2018, the court denied the govern­ment’s motion for summary judg­ment, allow­ing the case to proceed to trial. The court consol­id­ated this case with Krav­itz v. United States Dep’t of Commerce for the purposes of that trial. 

The district court ruled on April 5, 2019 for the plaintiffs on their APA and Enumer­a­tion Clause claims, and ordered the Commerce Depart­ment to remove the citizen­ship ques­tion from the 2020 Census. On April 12, the federal govern­ment appealed that decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. 

On June 25, 2019 the Fourth Circuit gran­ted the plaintiffs request to remand the case to the district court for further discov­ery on their equal protec­tion claims in light of newly discovered evid­ence regard­ing the Trump admin­is­tra­tion’s reason for adding the citizen­ship ques­tion. On July 5, the district court ordered that discov­ery to proceed.

On July 11, 2019, the federal govern­ment announced that it would aban­don its pursuit of the citizen­ship ques­tion.

Key Docu­ments

Bren­nan Center Filings

Filings, Orders and Opin­ions

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit (Case No. 19–1382)