By Mark Hallum
State Attorney General Barbara Underwood celebrated a victory in her quest to prevent immigrants from having to declare their legal status in the United States census on the grounds that the Trump administration acted in bad faith in requiring that information.
Underwood argued the case, backed by a coalition of attorneys general across the country, before Manhattan Federal Judge Jesse Furman in which a request for discovery was approved to determine which factors went into the White House decision to include immigration status on the census.
“Today marked a major win in our lawsuit to protect the Census, with a federal judge ordering the Trump administration to provide vital information on how the decision to demand citizenship status was made and what it may mean for New Yorkers and Americans across the country,” Underwood said. “The federal government has a solemn obligation to ensure a fair and accurate count of all people in this country. By demanding the citizenship status of each resident, the Trump administration is breaking with decades of policy and potentially causing a major undercount that would threaten billions in federal funds and New York’s fair representation in Congress and the Electoral College.”
The suit argued that a declaration of immigration status on the census would result in inaccuracies with “whole number of persons” not participating and would hobble critical functions of the federal government, which could result in loss of revenue for the United States.
But a broader goal of the citizenship question alleged against the Trump administration was that nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants would not be counted for the purpose of drawing political districts and thus it acted in bad faith..
Underwood, 73, was approved as attorney general in May and is the first woman to hold the post after Eric Schneiderman was forced to resign under allegations of violence against several romantic partners.
John Gore, the acting U.S. assistant attorney general and head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, was scheduled to testify in regard to the immigration status question to the 2020 census forms back in May, but failed to show.
Gore was subpoenaed by Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC), who granted the request from U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria) to do so after Gore failed to show up for a May 8 committee hearing regarding the census question.
“Mr. Gore’s decision to not show up to this hearing, after initially agreeing to testify, is an insult to all members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the critical role that our committee plays in overseeing the executive branch,” said Maloney in late May. “The American public and its representatives deserve answers about the Department of Justice’s decision to request that a citizenship question be added to the decennial census and why the department believes it is necessary.”
Maloney called into question the validity of the census inquiry by pointing out that no “Voting Rights Act expert” had requested or advised that immigration status should be on the census.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall