Where’s Wilbur Ross? Kavanaugh Could Rule on Critical Census Decision

October 11th, 2018

Trump trying to use SCOTUS to block Secretary Ross and DOJ from being deposed on census citizenship question

NEW YORK, NY - Today the New York Immigration Coalition (the NYIC) and NY Counts 2020 coalition partners held a press conference in New York decrying the Trump administration’s attempts to hide the facts by preventing Secretary Wilbur Ross from being deposed in census related lawsuits[1].

The lower courts have previously ruled that Commerce Secretary Ross may be deposed, but two days ago the administration appealed to the Supreme Court to grant a stay.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg could issue a ruling in State of New York et al v. the Department of Commerce. But if the full court weighs in, newly confirmed Justice Brett Kavanaugh could very well cast the swing vote in the final decision.

“The Trump administration is clearly trying to scare millions of immigrants into the shadows, and use the Supreme Court to hide Secretary Ross from the light of justice. But the question before the court is not just about whether Trump is trying to bury the facts; it’s quite literally about who we are as a nation. That Justice Kavanaugh – opposed by 48 senators who represent 38 million more Americans than those who supported him – could play a role, only raises the stakes for him to prove that he’s able to uphold the law and the interests of the majority,” said Steven Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition.

"We will keep fighting until the citizenship question is removed from the 2020 Census.  All persons make America great and deserve to be counted," said Afua Atta-Mensah, Esq., Executive Director, Community Voices Heard, Co-chair of New York Counts 2020 Outreach and Organizing committee.

"The citizenship question is divisive and politically driven. The Trump Administration wants to add this question to dilute the power of minority voters and further stoke the fear within our community," stated Jorge Vasquez, Jr., Associate Counsel, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, co-chair of New York Counts 2020 Advocacy Committee.

"While this administration is playing political games, lives are at risk. Our community has been severely misrepresented due to the lack of a MENA category in the Census. The citizenship question will stunt participation, thus denying families access to critical resources and ultimately preventing them from achieving stability and independence,” said Noha Mahmoud, Digital Organizer of Arab American Association of NY.

“The Academy of Medical & Public Health Services (AMPHS) firmly believes that adding a citizenship question to the census will only instill more fear among our community members whom we’ve tirelessly worked with to bring out of the shadows to receive medical assistance and social services. These members of our community may refuse to complete the census for fear that their status will be taken away or that certain benefits to which they are entitled will be jeopardized. Our governments depend on an accurate census count to determine how funding is allocated to community-based organizations and other government-based social services. Drawing an incomplete picture of our community means that crucial life-saving programs will lose the funding they so urgently needs” said Ashley Portillo, MPP, Coordinator of Health Programs at Academy of Medical & Public Health Services.

"The Census is one of the most important tools our country has to uplift growing neighborhoods and provide insight into our communities. This has been especially true for Asian American Pacific Islanders who have some of the fastest growth of all racial and ethnic groups. This data is important to our identities, our visibility, and our future,"  said Amy Torres, Director of Policy and Advocacy at the Chinese-American Planning Council.  "But in an environment of neighborhood raids, travel bans, Public Charge proposals, and the rescission of programs like DACA and TPS, a citizenship question on the 2020 Census will effect a chill on low-income, immigrant, and hard to count communities. CPC stands with the public to demand that Wilbur Ross sit for his deposition. Whether the addition of this untested question was through dereliction of his responsibilities as Secretary of Commerce or through intentional design to harm growing cities like New York, the country demands an answer."

The NYIC has filed a federal lawsuit in the Southern District of New York in conjunction with the ACLU and four other immigrant rights groups against the administration’s attempt to target immigrant communities, challenging the addition of the citizenship question by adding an intentional discrimination claim. The lawsuit argues that adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census violates the Constitution and reverses seven decades of precedent without a factual basis.

Judge Jesse Furman from the Southern District of New York previously cited inconsistencies between Secretary Ross’ testimony before Congress and subsequent information obtained through discovery, signaling that Secretary Ross may have lied in his previous statement.


On April 3rd, the New York Attorney General’s office filed a lawsuit– New York v. Dept of Commerce– in the Southern District of New York to stop the Commerce Department from demanding citizenship information on the 2020 Census. The lawsuit argues that adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census violates the law and reverses seven decades of precedent without a factual basis.

Currently 19 States plus D.C., a number of cities and counties, and the bipartisan U.S. Conference of Mayors have joined the New York Attorney General’s lawsuit. On May 25, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. Judge Furman on July 3rd stated it was “unlikely he would dismiss the case in its entirety” and granted the AG’s office request for additional discovery, resulting in the federal government recently releasing new documents.

On June 6th, the New York Immigration Coalition filed a related federal lawsuit in the Southern District of New York in conjunction with the ACLU and four other immigrant rights groups. The suit challenges the Trump administration’s plan to include a citizenship question on the 2020 census, by adding an intentional discrimination claim.

On July 26th, Judge Furman ruled against the Trump administration’s request to dismiss New York v. Department of Commerce, and will allow the lawsuit to move forward.

The New York Immigration Coalition, together with over eighty partners, has formed New York Counts 2020, a coalition to maximize participation in the census and therefore counter the expected impact of the citizenship question if added to the 2020 census. If included, a citizenship question will stoke unnecessary fear in immigrant communities and could result in a significant undercount, particularly already under-counted racial and ethnic minority groups. With immigrants constituting nearly 1 out of 4 New Yorkers, an undercount in the 2020 Census will have catastrophic consequences – costing all New Yorkers political power and billions of dollars in federal funding for key services.

The New York Counts 2020 coalition includes:

Academy of Medical and Public Health Services


ADL and 67th Precinct Clergy Council

African Communities Together

African Services Committee

American Immigration Lawyers Association - New York Chapter

Arab American Association of New York

Asian American Federation

Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF)

Association for Better New York

Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development (ANHD)

Bangladeshi American Community Development and Youth Services (BACDYS)

Bronx Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc

Brooklyn Public Library

Catholic Charities, Archdiocese of New York

Catholic Migration Services

Center for Law and Social Justice, Medgar Evers College

Charles B. Wang Community Health Center


Chinese-American Planning Council

Chinese Progressive Association

Christopher Rose Community Empowerment Campaign

Cidadão Global

Citizens' Committee for Children of New York

Citizens Union Foundation

Common Cause NY

Community Legal Advocates of NY

Community Voices Heard

Cooper Square Committee N-NORC

Church Women United in New York State

Desis Rising Up and Moving

Digital Equity Laboratory, The New School


Emerald Island Immigration Center

Engage New York

Fiscal Policy Institute



Garifuna Coalition USA, Inc.

Goddard Riverside Community Center

Health and Welfare Council of Long Island

Human Services Council

Indivisible Nation BK

Indo-Caribbean Alliance, Inc.

Interfaith Assembly on Homelessness  and Housing

Japanese American Social Services, Inc.

Jewish Community Relations Council

Korean Community Services of Metropolitan New York

LatinoJustice PRLDEF

Literacy Assistance Center

LiUNA Local 78

LSA Family Health Service


MinKwon Center for Community Action

Mixteca Organization, Inc.

Movement for Justice in El Barrio

NAACP-New York Branch

NALEO Educational Fund

New America

New York Alumnae Chapter, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

New York City Employment and Training Coalition

New York Housing Conference

New York Immigration Coalition

New York Legal Assistance Group

New York State Council on Children and Families

New York Portuguese American Leadership Conference


Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson


Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow

Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts

Planned Parenthood of New York City

Pratt Center for Community Development

Russian Speaking Community Council of Manhattan and the Bronx, Inc.


Sisters of St. Joseph of Rochester

Sunnyside Community Services

SUNY Rockefeller Institute of Government

The Door - A Center for Alternatives

Tiny Panther Consulting

Treatment Action Group

Queens College, CUNY/Social Explorer

Queens Library

UJA-Federation of New York

United Neighborhood Houses

Vision Urbana, Inc.

Volunteer Lawyers Project of Onondaga County

Wayne Action for Racial Justice

Worker’s Center of Central New York

YMCA of Greater New York

Young Invincibles

[1]State of New York et al v. the Department of Commerce.