(WASHINGTON, D.C) – A federal court should reconsider whether the Trump administration sought to intentionally discriminate against Latinos and immigrants of color when it added a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, according to court documents filed Monday by civil rights groups.
The request filed by MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) and Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC (Advancing Justice | AAJC) follows revelations that a Republican redistricting strategist was working with the Trump administration to include a citizenship question as a way to unlawfully benefit some groups.
“Racial discrimination cannot constitutionally support the late-added citizenship question,” said Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF president and general counsel. “Because the evidence strongly demonstrates an unlawful and discriminatory motive, the question must be removed, regardless of what the Supreme Court may conclude as to the separate claims before it.”
MALDEF (Mexican American Legal and Educational Defense Fund) and Advancing Justice | AAJC sued the Trump administration in May 2018 on behalf Latino and Asian American individuals, Native Americans, social service non-profits, state legislative associations, civil rights groups, voters’ rights organizations, and community partnerships that would be forced to divert resources to combat a potential severe undercount in their respective communities.
In April, a federal court in Maryland ruled that the addition of the citizenship question violates the Administrative Procedures Act and the Enumeration Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The court, however, fell short of granting MALDEF’s and Advancing Justice|AAJC’s claim that the Administration’s intention in adding the question was to cause an undercount of minorities of color in the decennial Census in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fifth Amendment and that the Administration conspired to deprive racial minorities of their constitutional rights.
In his ruling, U.S. District Court Judge George J. Hazel noted there was evidence that certain administration officials harbored racial animus, and may have been motivated to add a citizenship question for discriminatory reasons; what was missing was direct evidence that Secretary Ross acted on that discriminatory intent.
Attorneys with MALDEF and Advancing Justice |AAJC are asking Judge Hazel to overturn his decision on both the conspiracy and intentional discrimination claims. New information reveals that Dr. Thomas Hofeller, a longtime Republican redistricting specialist, played a significant role in orchestrating the addition of a citizenship question in order to advantage “Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites” in redistricting, according to the motion filed Monday.
“The new evidence directly connects the Administration’s racially discriminatory motives to Secretary Ross and the other Department of Commerce (“Commerce”) and DOJ officials responsible for the citizenship question decision,” said Denise Hulett, MALDEF lead attorney in the case.
MALDEF and Advancing Justice |AAJC currently have an appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth District seeking review the court’s intentional discrimination ruling. That appeal remains in place after Monday’s filing.