NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Trump administration has asked a New York federal appeals court to halt a trial set for Nov. 5 that will examine the legality of U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’ decision to ask people filling out the 2020 census whether they are citizens.
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Mosinee, Wisconsin, U.S., October 24, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo
In a filing on Thursday, the administration asked the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan to put the trial on hold temporarily, as well as other pre-trial activity, until the U.S. Supreme Court resolves a dispute over evidence, including whether Ross can be forced to answer questions about the politically charged decision.
The Supreme Court blocked Ross’ deposition in an order on Monday and gave the government until Oct. 29 to appeal all of the trial judge’s orders regarding compelling documents and other testimony before trial.
The lawsuit, which includes 18 states and a number of cities and counties, was spearheaded by Democratic officials. It is consolidated with another suit by several immigrant rights groups accusing the government of discrimination against non-white immigrants in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law.
Critics of the citizenship question have said it will deter people in immigrant communities from participating in the census, disproportionately affecting Democratic-leaning states by undercounting the number of residents.
The administration’s bid to halt the trial comes in an aggressive push to limit the scope of challenges to its policies. It has also asked the Supreme Court to put the brakes on a lawsuit filed by young activists who have accused the U.S. government of ignoring the perils of climate change.
The administration told the appeals court there should be no trial to probe Ross’ motives for adding the citizenship question to the census. If the Supreme Court rules in its favor, “the need for a trial might be obviated altogether,” the government said.
Manhattan U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman said in a Sept. 21 order that Ross, whose department oversees the U.S. Census Bureau, must be questioned because his “intent and credibility are directly at issue” in the lawsuit.
The U.S. Constitution mandates a census every 10 years. It is used in the allocation of seats in Congress and the distribution of billions of dollars in federal funds. A citizenship question has not appeared on the census since 1950.
The administration has said it needs the data to enforce a voting rights law as it relates to minority voters.
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