Federal judge blocks administration’s attempt to end 2020 Census early

Staff and volunteers of the South Asian Council for Social Services in Queens, getting members of the community to fill Census 2020 forms during their food drives. (Photo: courtesy SACSS)

A California judge late Thursday (Sept. 24, 2020) blocked the Trump administration from stopping the 2020 census count next week, saying it should continue until October 31, the date the Census Bureau had planned on before the administration abruptly shortened the count.

U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in the Northern District of California granted a preliminary injunction in the case brought by the National Urban League, a group of counties, cities, advocacy groups and individuals. Koh had earlier this month issued a temporary restraining order to keep the count underway. The case is likely to be appealed in the Supreme Court.

In a hearing on Tuesday, (Sept. 22, 2020) Koh had expressed irritation with Department of Justice lawyers for missing a deadline she had set for them to produce internal documents connected to the case.


She referred repeatedly to documents finally released over the weekend and Monday in which career bureau officials said the data could not be properly collected and delivered to the president on the government’s new timeline.

“It is ludicrous to think we can complete 100% of the nation’s data collection earlier than 10/31 and any thinking person who would believe we can deliver apportionment by 12/31 has either a mental deficiency or a political motivation,” said Tim Olson, the bureau’s associate director for field operations, in an email in July.

Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the government had originally asked Congress for an additional four months to report its data – a delay the House approved in its coronavirus relief bill but the Senate has yet to approve.

Census officials had said in July that they could no longer deliver a full and accurate count for apportionment of House seats by the constitutionally mandated deadline of Dec. 31, and had asked for a four-month extension. But after Trump issued a memo later that month saying undocumented immigrants should not be counted for apportionment, the government reversed its stance.

Lawmakers have also expressed concern about the change in schedule, saying a rushed count will lead to an inaccurate census that will hurt communities in hard-to-count areas in both Democrat and Republican states.

On Thursday, House Oversight Committee on Thursday, Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., sent a letter to Census Bureau director Steven Dillingham asking about leaked documents that appear to show the bureau cutting corners and breaking rules in the enumeration of homeless people in order to get the count done by September 30.

Maloney asked for a briefing by September 29 on how the Census Bureau has counted homeless people to date and how it would continue to do so if the count is extened.



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