The citizenship question: A direct attack on communities of color

Lawyers' Committee
2 min readApr 23, 2019
Department of Commerce v. New York, a case about the inclusion of a citizenship question on the 2020 Census

Today, the Supreme Court heard the argument for Department of Commerce v. New York, a case about the inclusion of a citizenship question on the 2020 Census. The citizenship question is a racial justice issue, and its inclusion would be a direct attack on communities of color. At the base of the Court steps, while the argument occurred inside, grassroots community groups and civil rights organizations rallied outside.

Jasmine Nazarett, one of the rally’s organizers from the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM), said she opposes the citizenship question because it would harm communities of color, immigrant communities, and refugee communities.

Marian Klymkowsky, the daughter of Ukrainian and German immigrants who came to the United States after World War II, was at the rally with a homemade sign that said “Count me in.” She said she doesn’t understand why the current administration has demonized immigrants.

“[Immigrants] are what make the country great, and I’m really upset that [President Trump] is using tyranny tactics, demeaning people, calling them scammers of the system — he’s making them not human … I’m a Catholic, and I believe that we have been taught to welcome the other, and the stranger, and we’re not doing that, and I just don’t understand how, in a nation that says ‘In God We Trust,’ we can have these types of policies,” Klymkowsky said.

Alyssie, a Common Cause volunteer who declined to give her last name, said the citizenship question affects her in a personal way. She said it’s important to count every vote and not have anyone feel intimidated.

Charles Amuzie, a Color of Change employee, said he was attending the rally in recognition of the 4 million black Americans who would be affected by the citizenship question. “We want to voice our support,” he said of his organization’s involvement.

The Lawyers’ Committee had an amicus brief filed in this important case. We know this is a fight for democracy and racial justice, and we stand with every person rallying in front of the Court.

Kristen Clarke, President and Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee, was in the Court for the argument. She said: “The argument made clear that Secretary Wilbur Ross’s decision to add the citizenship question defies science, evidence and data. The judicial and administrative record in this case demonstrates that the citizenship question would result in a significant undercount among communities of color. Overwhelming evidence was laid to bare for the justices demonstrating that facilitating enforcement of the Voting Rights Act was a mere pretextual justification for action that would otherwise jeopardize the ability to capture a fair and accurate count of the population.”



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