A federal judge has blocked the Commerce Department from asking people about their citizenship in the 2020 Census.
U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman said in a ruling issued Tuesday that Commerce Department Secretary Wilbur Ross's decision to add a citizenship question to the Census was unlawful for several reasons, including that it was “arbitrary and capricious.”
Furman added that Ross violated a law that requires the government to collect data via administrative records, instead of direct inquiries.
The judge also found that asking people about citizenship will likely result in undercounting “certain sectors,” including “people who live in households containing noncitizens and Hispanics.”
The decision turned on the Administrative Procedure Act -- a law that requires agencies to follow certain procedures before making decisions.
"Secretary Ross’s decision to add the citizenship question to the 2020 census questionnaire, while not inconsistent with the Constitution, violated the APA in several respects,” Furman wrote in a 277-page decision.
He added that the Administrative Procedure Act allows an agency to change its policy, but that the agency must first “consider all important aspects of a problem; study the relevant evidence and arrive at a decision rationally supported by that evidence; comply with all applicable procedures and substantive laws; and articulate the facts and reasons -- the real reasons -- for that decision.”
The major ad trade groups objected to the citizenship question last year. “We are concerned that the addition of a citizenship question would depress response among both non-citizens and their families (even if family members are indeed citizens),” the CEOs of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, American Advertising Federation, Association of National Advertisers (ANA), and Advertising Research Foundation wrote in a jointly signed letter sent to the U.S. Department of Commerce last August.
Earlier last year, the ANA said its members were concerned that questioning people about their citizenship would skew the results by undercounting minorities.