Photo Courtesy of the Office of the State Attorney General
State Attorney General Barbara Underwood
By Michael V. Cusenza
State Attorney General Barbara Underwood called a recent federal court order that has allowed the AG’s lawsuit to block the Trump administration from demanding citizenship information in the 2020 Census to move forward a “major win.”
Last week, Judge Jesse Furman granted the AG’s Office request for discovery, ordering the Trump administration to provide information on how the decision to demand citizenship status was made, and what it may mean for New Yorkers and Americans across the country.
“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,” Underwood said in a statement.
Back in April, then-State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman—leading a coalition of 18 attorneys general, six cities, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors—filed the original suit to prevent the Trump administration from adding a question to the decennial Census that would ask respondents if they are U.S. citizens.
“The administration’s decision is inconsistent with the Census Bureau’s constitutional and statutory obligations, is unsupported by the stated justification, departs from decades of settled practice without reasoned explanation, and fails to consider the availability of alternative data that can effectively serve the federal government’s needs,” the lawsuit describes.
The suit, which Underwood now leads, also emphasizes the irreparable harm that will result from inaccuracies in the 2020 Census caused by demanding citizenship information. Hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funds are directly tied to demographic information obtained through the census, including the Highway Trust Fund and other Department of Transportation grants, Child Care Development Grants, and Medicaid. Consequently, inaccurate counts can potentially deprive states of much-needed funds designed to protect low-income and vulnerable communities.
Several elected New York officials have ripped the administration’s decision to add the citizenship status question.
“A fair and accurate 2020 count is constitutionally mandated to ensure political power and resources remain with the people – where they belong,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in March. “President Trump’s decision puts our amazing city of immigrants in jeopardy and threatens federal funding for infrastructure, health care and public safety in New York.”
U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) has called the move “deeply troubling and reckless.”