AP NEWS

The Latest: Attorney defends citizenship question on Census

February 16, 2019

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The Latest on closing arguments in lawsuits before a U.S. judge in San Francisco challenging the Trump administration’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 U.S. Census (all times local):

4:30 p.m.

An attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice says Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross decided to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census because he believed another government agency needed better data.

California and several cities have sued to stop the question from being asked.

Brett Shumate said during closing arguments in the lawsuit on Friday there was no evidence that Ross would have added the question without the request from the DOJ, and a court can’t override the secretary’s judgment. Ross said in March that he was responding to a Justice Department request that the Census ask about citizenship to improve enforcement of the federal Voting Rights Act.

U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg said evidence showed Ross was determined to add a citizenship question regardless, but he did not immediately rule. The hearing came as the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review a separate court ruling that has so far blocked the administration from adding the citizenship question.

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12:10 p.m.

An attorney for the state of California says the process behind Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’ decision to add a citizenship question to the U.S. Census was “rotten to its core.”

Matthew Wise said Friday during closing arguments in a lawsuit brought by the state and others in federal court in San Francisco that Census officials warned Ross that the question would reduce the percentage of immigrants who respond. California says that would lead to an undercount that would jeopardize federal funding and its representation in Congress.

California wants U.S. Judge Richard Seeborg to keep the question off the Census. Seeborg was not expected to rule immediately.

The hearing came as the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review a separate court ruling that has so far blocked the administration from adding the citizenship question. Attorneys for the Justice Department and plaintiffs said Seeborg should still rule so the cases before him might also go before the Supreme Court.

The Justice Department says census officials take steps to guard against an undercount. Its attorneys were expected to make its closing argument later Friday.

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8:15 p.m.

The Trump administration will try to persuade a U.S. judge to let it add a citizenship question to the 2020 U.S. census.

Lawsuits by California and numerous cities in the state say asking people whether they’re U.S. citizens would discourage immigrants and Latinos from participating in the population count.

Judge Richard Seeborg in San Francisco isn’t expected to issue a ruling immediately after Friday’s closing arguments.

The lawsuits say a lack of participation by immigrants and Latinos would result in an undercount that would jeopardize federal funding and the state’s representation in Congress.

The U.S. Justice Department says census officials take steps to guard against an undercount.

A federal judge in New York last month barred the Trump administration from adding a citizenship question in a separate set of lawsuits.