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Court Case

New York Immigration Coal. v. United States Dep't of Commerce

The New York Immigration Coalition is leading a coalition of groups in a challenge to the Commerce Department’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census.

Last Updated: October 14, 2019
Published: July 16, 2019

Summary

The New York Immigration Coalition led coalition of groups in a challenge to the Commerce Department’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. The plaintiffs argued 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 Southern District of New York and produced the first trial victory on the citizenship question issue. On June 27, 2019 the U.S. Supreme Court issued an opinion in the case blocking the citizenship question.

Case Background

A coalition of groups representing immigrant and minority communities sued the Commerce Department, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and the Census Bureau over the Commerce Department’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. The suit asserted that a citizenship question would undermine the accuracy of the census and exacerbate the undercount of minority communities.

The plaintiffs alleged that the Commerce Department acted with discriminatory intent towards Asian-Americans, Arab-Americans, Latinos, and immigrant communities of color in adding a citizenship question to the decennial census form. The plaintiffs claimed that a citizenship question would drive down participation by members of these communities, thereby reducing their political power and the amount of federal funding they receive. The plaintiffs argued that this amounted to a violation of the equal protection clause of the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The suit further contended that because the citizenship question would produce a systematic undercount of Latinos, Asian-Americans, Arab-Americans, and other immigrant communities of color, the question would undermine the federal government’s constitutional obligation under the Census Clause to conduct an “actual enumeration” of the national population. The suit further argued that Commerce Department’s decision to add the question violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) because, among other things, it violated federal law and Census Bureau policies.

Bench trial was held between November 5, 2018 and November 27, 2018. The court consolidated this case with New York v. United States Department of Commerce for purposes of that trial. 

The district court ruled on January 15, 2019 for the plaintiffs on their APA claims, and ordered the Commerce Department to remove a citizenship question from the 2020 Census. 

The federal government appealed that decision directly to the Supreme Court. On June 27, 2019, the Supreme Court issued an opinion upholding in part the district court’s decision striking down the citizenship question. 

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

The district court is now considering, among other things, claims that the federal government’s attorneys and witnesses should be sanctioned for their actions in the case.

Key Documents

District Court

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (Department of Justice's Petition for a Writ of Mandamus, Case No. 18-2659, re: Extra-Record Discovery and John Gore Deposition)

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (Department of Justice's Petition for a Writ of Mandamus, Case No. 18-2857, re: Extra-Record Discovery and Wilbur Ross Deposition)

U.S. Supreme Court (Case No. 18A350)

U.S. Supreme Court (Case No. 18A375)

U.S. Supreme Court (Case No. 18-966, re: Merits of the Citizenship Question) 

Amicus Briefs Regarding Granting Certiorari 

Amicus Briefs in Support of Commerce Department 

Amicus Briefs in Support of New York et al.