Rule of Law Clinic Files Suit to Prevent Undercount in 2020 Census

The Center for Popular Democracy Action (CPD Action) and the City of Newburgh, NY filed a lawsuit on Nov. 26, 2019, in federal court in Manhattan challenging five structural deficiencies in the U.S. Census Bureau’s final operational plans for the 2020 Census. The Peter Gruber Rule of Law Clinic at Yale Law School and the law firm of Jenner & Block are representing the plaintiffs in the case.

The suit contends that the Census Bureau’s decisions to hire drastically fewer field workers, eliminate local partnerships and community support, slash outreach, and withhold more than a billion dollars in unexpended federal appropriations will jeopardize the accuracy of the 2020 Census. African-American, Latinx, and immigrant residents will be disproportionately undercounted as a result of the Census Bureau’s final design choices, which in turn will deprive their communities of political representation and billions of dollars in federal funding, according to the lawsuit.

“The 2020 Census is poised to result in a severe undercount of immigrant communities and communities of color,” said Ana María Archila, CPD Action’s Co-Executive Director. “We will not stand idly by while this Administration seeks to erase us and redirect political power and federal funding for programs like Medicaid and transportation to less diverse parts of the country.”

“We are committed to ensuring Newburgh’s population is accurately counted and that our residents receive the voice and tax dollars to which they are entitled,” said City of Newburgh Councilmember Karen Mejia. “This lawsuit is about making sure the federal government makes good on their responsibilities.”

CPD Action is a nonprofit advocacy organization that works to strengthen the voices of local communities in the political process, especially workers and immigrants. A core component of that mission is ensuring the accuracy of the census. The City of Newburgh, located in Orange County, NY, 60 miles north of New York City, has been designated a hard-to-count community in the lead-up to the 2020 Census due to its large Hispanic and black populations and immigrant and low-income communities.

“The Census Bureau’s five design decisions challenged in this lawsuit each violate the Constitution’s requirement that the government conduct an ‘actual enumeration,’ as well as statutory prohibitions on arbitrary and capricious action by federal agencies,” said Geng Ngarmboonanant ’21, a law student intern in the Peter Gruber Rule of Law Clinic at Yale Law School. “The stakes are high for the communities who need political representation and federal funding the most.”

The Peter Gruber Rule of Law Clinic focuses on maintaining U.S. rule of law and human rights commitments in four areas: national security, antidiscrimination, climate change, and democracy promotion. In addition to its work on the travel ban cases, the Clinic has also recently worked on issues related to the administration’s handling of the 2020 census, voting rights in Connecticut, and discrimination against Muslim groups.