NEW YORK (Reuters) – A new lawsuit accuses the Trump administration of starving the U.S. Bureau of the Census of needed funding for an accurate 2020 count, likely causing an undercounting of racial and ethnic minorities and depriving them of crucial federal funds.
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Census pamphlets and paperwork are pictured in this photo illustration in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., July 15, 2019. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
In a complaint filed on Tuesday, the nonprofit Center for Popular Democracy Action and the city of Newburgh, New York, accused the government of arbitrarily slashing resources to count blacks, Hispanics, immigrants, the homeless and other members of so-called “hard-to-count” communities.
According to the plaintiffs, decisions to hire one-third as many enumerators as in 2010, halve the number of census field offices, reduce questionnaire help and slash community outreach were arbitrary, capricious and irrational, and violated the government’s constitutional duty to do an “actual enumeration.”
The lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan seeks to set aside those decisions, and ensure that sufficient funding be available for an accurate count.
“Defendants have been operating on the cheap,” the complaint said. “Given the size and scope of the decennial census, immediate relief is necessary to ensure that defendants have ample opportunity to implement the changes.”
The defendants are the U.S. Department of Commerce and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, as well as the Census Bureau and its director, Steven Dillingham.
Neither the Commerce Department nor the Census Bureau immediately responded to requests for comment.
Census data are used to award billions of dollars of federal funds, and determine political representation.
The lawsuit followed U.S. President Donald Trump’s July 11 retreat from trying to add a citizenship question to the census.
Critics said adding the question would discriminate against minorities, and would have helped Republicans by lowering the number of responses from people in areas more likely to vote for Democrats.
Newburgh is 65 miles (105 km) north of New York City, and its population of roughly 28,000 includes many black, Hispanic and undocumented people. The complaint said the city had one of New York’s lowest census participation rates in 2010.
Center for Popular Democracy Action is based in Brooklyn, and said it represents workers, minorities and immigrants on issues of economic and racial justice.
Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; editing by Jonathan Oatis