From VOA – ENGLISH:
A federal trial began Monday in New York City over challenges to the federal government’s decision to put a citizenship question on the 2020 census. The first witness— Duke University Professor D. Sunshine Hillygus— said there was considerable evidence that adding the question will depress participation by non-citizens.
Hillygus, who served six years on the scientific advisory committee for the census, said she has concluded plans by the U.S. government to take steps to prevent damage to the overall count by adding the question are unlikely to be adequate. She said the decision “violates the spirit” of guidelines set up to protect the census and “undermines not only the accuracy and completeness of the census … but the integrity.”
The trial stems from lawsuits brought by a dozen states and big cities, among others. They say the citizenship question will discourage immigrant participation and dilute political representation and funds for states that tend to vote Democratic. New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood attended the trial Monday.
U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman, who is hearing the case without a jury, has harshly criticized the federal government’s efforts to delay or stop the trial. He called them remarkable because government officials insist a speedy resolution of lawsuits is necessary so census preparations can proceed.
When he took the bench Monday, he acknowledged the U.S. Supreme Court said Friday the trial can proceed over the objections of the Justice Department. “It came down to the wire but here we are,” Furman said.
The Justice Department insists Furman should decide the case based only on the administrative record rather than evidence gathered by the plaintiffs, which includes the deposition of Commerce Department officials and others.
Furman said he will allow evidence to be submitted during the trial before he decides whether it is appropriate to consider it when he issues his opinion. In a recent opinion, Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch and Justice Clarence Thomas essentially invited Justice Department lawyers to request to stop the trial.
When the high court ruled Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross did not have to submit to an immediate deposition, Gorsuch wrote a partial dissent. In it, Gorsuch— joined by Thomas— suggested that Furman delay the trial and await further Supreme Court guidance.
Furman struck back in a written decision giving the trial a green light: “It is the Government’s conduct in this case, not the Court’s review, that is ‘highly unusual, to say the least,'” he said, highlighting a partial quote from Gorsuch.
Gorsuch had written the trial would probe the Commerce secretary’s “mental processes.” “This is all highly unusual, to say the least,” Gorsuch said. Three days after Furman ruled, the Justice Department returned to the Supreme Court, seeking to block the trial.
More about the trial from a statement by the New York Immigration Coalition:
Today marks the start of a major federal trial over the Trump administration’s attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. Immigrant New Yorkers and advocates held a press conference and rally immediately prior to the opening of the trial to demand a fair and accurate count of their communities.
Judge Jesse Furman in the Southern District of New York will hear New York State et al. v the Department of Commerce. The suit has been consolidated with New York Immigration Coalition v. the Department of Commerce, which argues that the Trump administration’s attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census is a racially motivated form of discrimination.
The American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Civil Liberties Union will argue the case alongside the New York State Attorney General’s Office. Plaintiffs from the New York Immigration Coalition and Make the Road New York have submitted written testimony.
“Trump’s bigotry is baked into this ridiculous citizenship question. This trial will show that the Administration conspired with far-right-wing racists Steve Bannon and Kris Kobach to rig the Census to meet their agenda. It’s an obvious attempt to subvert the Constitution in order to deprive big, immigrant-rich states of federal dollars and political capital. We will not allow these self-described ‘white nationalists’ to rob New Yorkers of our representation or our resources,” said Steven Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition.
Yatziri Tovar, member of Make the Road New York, said, “The reckless attempt to add citizenship question puts the entire Census in jeopardy. This is a clear attempt from the Trump administration to undercount and silence our communities and families like mine. I’m a Dreamer and I have relatives who are citizens and others who are undocumented. Families like mine will not want to answer a Census that may put them in jeopardy. Our message today is clear: we will fight this racist effort with everything we have. We will remain resilient and we will continue to fight for a full, fair count in the 2020 Census.”
“The Trump administration is shamelessly trying to weaponize the census against immigrants, communities of color and the poor,” Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “The more we uncover in this case, the more we see that the intent of the citizenship question was to undercount, under-represent, and under-serve immigrant communities of color. New Yorkers refuse to be undercounted or driven into the shadows.”
Since the Trump administration announced its intention to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, a chorus of national opposition has emerged. The reckless effort to intimidate immigrants and depress their participation in the Census now faces several lawsuits and community opposition around the country.
Two weeks ago, the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily blocked the deposition of U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross in the consolidated lawsuit against adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. However, the court ruled that Assistant Attorney General John Gore can be deposed, and the lawsuit can proceed in the Southern District of New York.
District Court Judge Furman previously cited inconsistencies between Secretary Ross’ testimony before Congress and subsequent information obtained through discovery, signaling that Secretary Ross may have lied in his previous statement.
In testimony before Congress, Ross had previously denied speaking with former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, claiming he was “not aware” of any contact with the White House. Then news broke that Ross had spoken with Bannon about the decision to include a citizenship question on the 2020 Census.
The Trump administration asked Judge Furman to dismiss the lawsuit, however, the request was denied.