Immigrant + Community Advocates Rally at Close of Census Trial

November 27th, 2018

SDNY trial concludes, evidence points to intention of racial discrimination

Statewide Census coalition calls for a fair and accurate count in 2020


NEW YORK, NY - Tuesday, November 27th, Judge Jesse Furman in the Southern District of New York heard closing arguments in the lawsuit New York State et al. v the Department of Commerce. The suit has been consolidated with New York Immigration Coalition v. the Department of Commerce, which argues that the Trump administration’s attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census is a racially motivated form of discrimination. The statewide coalition New York Counts 2020 has been monitoring the entire trial.

Immediately following closing arguments, members of the New York Counts 2020 coalition, immigrant advocates, and community organizations, held a press conference calling for a fair and accurate count of all New Yorkers.

New York Counts 2020 members are stakeholders representing a wide array of issues and industries, including immigrant rights, labor, education, health, government, technology, and business.

“The trial has made crystal clear that Trump is trying to rig the Census for partisan gain by depriving big, immigrant rich states of resources and representation. It’s unconstitutional and illegal, and we refuse to be erased. Immigrants founded this country and we’re going to fight this all the way to the Supreme Court if we have to,” said Steven Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition.

In discovery, the trial uncovered that Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross consulted Steve Bannon, former White House Chief Strategist and known white supremacist, and therefore revealed the Administration's racial bias behind adding the question. Ross previously claimed that the request to add the citizenship question spawned from the DOJ, but later backtracked that he and his staff made the initial request.

Additionally, compounding evidence in the concurring California case over the citizenship question found that Trump administration officials suggested they would lift protections that keep Census responses confidential, and share those responses with law enforcement and national security agencies.

"NMIC stands alongside our allies in demanding that the citizenship question be removed from the 2020 Census.  Under the current climate, immigrant communities live in constant fear and it is imperative for everyone to be counted,” said Maria Lizardo, LMSW, Executive Director of the Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation.

“The suggested question about citizenship status in the 2020 U.S. Census is a clear attempt to intimidate immigrants and working class people of color and it would endanger accurate political representation, funding for local schools, healthcare, and vital services that support strong families and a just society for America’s diverse communities. 32BJ joins our allies in community organizing, labor, legal advocacy, research and a growing chorus of others in standing against proposed reforms steeped in white supremacist values, that are meant to divide us and harm communities of color. This dangerous question must not be allowed in the 2020 Census process,” said Alison Hirsh, Vice President and Political Director of 32BJ SEIU.

"Segments of our community have the lowest census participation rate in the city at 45%. This, coupled with the current anti-immigrant climate, will most certainly impact participation due to fears surrounding the citizenship question,” said Annetta Seecharran, Executive Director Chhaya CDC.

“Christopher Rose Community Empowerment Campaign stands here in solidarity because current policies have left Latino, Asian and Caribbean communities with no choice but to feel vulnerable and question our government's intentions in such an anti-immigrant environment.  Our maternal health programs serve many Caribbean born women and their children--our fear is this question will stymie an accurate count and ultimately impact census data used to address gross health disparities in our community,” said Xamayla Rose, Managing Director of Policy and Advocacy at Christopher Rose Community Empowerment Campaign.

"Our staff has already seen a reluctance to answer the Census if the citizenship question is included. When a class of our English for Speakers of Other Languages students was asked, 97% of the students said they would not open the door to a Census worker that with that question included," said Jennifer Silverman, New York Counts 2020 Advocacy Committee Co-Chair, Sunnyside Community Services, Inc.

“The inclusion of the citizenship question in the 2020 Census has the potential to devastate response rates, create erratic and unreliable census data, and intimidate New Yorkers and Americans from accessing government services,” said Steven Rubenstein, Chairman of the Association for a Better New York.  “Including this question without the full, careful, and deliberative evaluation process demanded of the Census Bureau is outright irresponsible.  We hope the Southern District recognizes the gravity of the proposal and reverse the course of the Census Bureau.”


The New York Immigration Coalition, together with over ninety partners, 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 trial opened in the lawsuit New York et al. v the Department of Commerce on November 5th, 2018. Members of the New York Immigration Coalition submitted written testimony.

On February 19th, 2019, the Supreme Court of the United States is slated to address elements of the case to determine what evidence is considered outside and within the administrative record, and therefore admissible as evidence.