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Court Case

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)