Terry H. Schwadron
March 10, 2019
One more court has weighed in to say that efforts by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to introduce a Census question about citizenship was illegal and “in bad faith,” one in a series of rulings that likely are bringing heartburn to the White House.
Indeed, San Francisco federal Judge Richard Seeborg widened a previous ruling by New York Judge Jesse Furman that Ross had violated the constitutional underpinning of representative democracyby trying to affect the Census outcome. The Supreme Court already had agreed to review the Furman decision, but the constitutional issues now should guarantee a Supreme Court review.
The administration has lost several court decisions involving immigration issues since President Trump took office. But the Census case has taken on special significance because it strikes at the heart of the United States’ form of government and because of what Seeborg described as a “strong showing of bad faith” by a Cabinet secretary who, influenced in part by White House advisers, tried to conceal his motives. A citizenship question is thought to bias the count of persons by county, and thus eventually have an affect on congressional seats and distribution of federal money.
The cases against Ross have been brought by jurisdictions with significant immigrant populations.
Unable to find any expert in the Census Bureau who approved of his plan to add the citizenship question, Seeborg wrote, Ross engaged in a “cynical search to find some reason, any reason” to justify the decision. The judge said Ross was fully aware that the question would produce a census undercount, particularly among Latinos. That, in turn, would have probably reduced the representation in Congress — and thus in the electoral college that decides the presidency — of states with significant immigrant populations, notably California.
Because census data is used to apportion distribution of federal funds, an undercount would also have cheated these same jurisdictions, the judge said.
Seeborg, like Furman, found after a trial that Ross misrepresented both to the public and Congress his reasons for adding the citizenship question last March. Ross claimed he was acting at the request of the Justice Department in the interest of enforcing the Voting Rights Act. In reality, the “evidence establishes” that the voting rights explanation was just “a pretext” and that Ross…