Judge George Jarrod Hazel of the United States District Court for the District of Maryland became the third federal judge to block a citizenship question on the 2020 U.S. Census on April 5, 2019. Hazel ruled in a consolidated case that the question, in his view, was unconstitutional and a violation of administrative law.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross approved the addition of a citizenship question on the 2020 U.S. Census in March 2018. The question asks, “Is this person a citizen of the United States?”
Hazel claimed that the citizenship question violates the U.S. Constitution because it could hinder the government’s responsibility under the Enumeration Clause to count every person living in the United States. He also claimed that the Trump administration failed to follow proper administrative procedure when it added the citizenship question to the U.S. Census. He wrote, “The decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census was arbitrary and capricious in violation of the [Administrative Procedure Act]” and “ran counter to the evidence before the agency.” Ross has stated that he added the citizenship question to the 2020 census at the request of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in order to improve enforcement of the Voting Rights Act.
Three federal judges had blocked the citizenship question from appearing on 2020 census forms as of April 2019. The United States Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on the question in Department of Commerce v. New York on April 23, 2019. A ruling is expected in June 2019.