LOS ANGELES-- Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer today filed suit against the Trump Administration, challenging the federal government’s unconstitutional attempt to drastically cut the time for the Census count. The Administration’s decision would result in a severe undercount of the City’s populace, threatening the City’s representation in Congress and millions of dollars in federal funding. Feuer previously issued a demand letter to the U.S. Census over its decision.
"We’re suing to block the Trump Administration from unconstitutionally abandoning a plan to obtain an accurate Census in the midst of a devastating pandemic," said Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer. "From political representation to crucial public funding, every L.A. resident has so much riding on a full, fair and complete count. The Administration’s abrupt, inexplicable and unlawful reversal would harm Angelenos for the next decade. It must not stand."
"The City Attorney's lawsuit makes it clear: the Trump Administration's move to cut the census response time defies our constitutional responsibility to ensure everyone is counted and everybody counts," said Mayor Eric Garcetti. "No matter where you live, whether in Los Angeles or anywhere in our country, the COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the vital importance of sending strong representatives to Congress and making smart investments in the health and safety of our communities. We need every day possible to meet that standard and conduct a full and accurate census."
"Since Day One, the Trump Administration has targeted, intimidated and vilified our Latino community and People of Color, so while the City of Los Angeles is not surprised by his illegal action to undercount our residents and rob them of resources and representation, we will not stand idly by and let it happen," said LA City Council President Nury Martinez.
Early in the pandemic, due to the coronavirus crisis, the Census Bureau shifted the deadlines for critical operations by several months, so that it could obtain a reasonable level of accuracy despite the challenges of the virus.
But earlier this month the Bureau abruptly changed course and said it will compress a planned eight-and-a-half month period for collecting and processing data into just four-and-a-half months.
Four Former US Census Directors have issued a statement that said the compressed timeline would “result in seriously incomplete enumeration in many areas across our country.”
Feuer’s suit, which was filed along with National Urban League, League of Women Voters, Black Alliance for Just Immigration, Harris County, TX; King County, WA; City of Salinas, CA; City of San Jose, CA; Rodney Ellis and Adrian Garcia, asks the court to prohibit implementation of the Rush plan, thereby restoring the COVID Plan.
The complaint alleges:
The federal government’s attempts to rush the census count pose a grave threat to all the vital functions that rely on census data, from reapportioning the United States House of Representatives and redrawing state and local electoral districts, to equitably distributing over $1.5 trillion annually in federal funds that support basic needs such as food, health care, and education.
The COVID-19 pandemic upended all 2020 Census field operations, many of which the Census Bureau designed to enumerate populations that it has long struggled to count, including racial and ethnic minorities, non-English speakers, and undocumented persons.
The Bureau’s expert staff responded to the pandemic by developing a revised operational plan to ensure that hard-to-count communities would be enumerated while also protecting the health and safety of Bureau employees and the public (the “COVID-19 Plan”). This plan shifted the deadlines of, but did not shorten the time for, critical operations.
On August 3, 2020—in apparent denial of a pandemic that has only grown worse and in flagrant disregard for the Census Bureau’s constitutional and statutory duties to conduct an actual enumeration of the entire population—Commerce Secretary Ross and Census Director Dillingham abruptly abandoned the COVID-19 Plan. Without explanation, they announced new timelines for the 2020 Census, including shortening the Bureau’s data-collection operation by one month to September 30, and requiring the Bureau to process and report the apportionment data to President Trump by December 31 (the “Rush Plan”).
The immediate solution to this problem of the federal government’s own making is comparatively simple: prevent the Trump Administration from cutting operations short as to ensure an inaccurate count, and allow the expert staff of the Census Bureau to effectuate the COVID-19 plan that it deemed necessary to fulfil its constitutional duties during the pandemic.
With that in mind, the lawsuit seeks declaratory relief affirming that the Trump Administration’s actions violate the Enumeration Clause and the Administrative Procedure Act. Plaintiffs additionally seek a restoration of the administration’s COVID-19 Plan, and the rejection of the Rush Plan. This relief will allow the Bureau to conduct the 2020 Census on the timeline it has repeatedly asserted is necessary to complete a full, fair, and accurate count.
Without such relief, the City of Los Angeles will suffer irreparable harm for at least another decade, until the next census is conducted.
You can access the full complaint here.
This is the City’s third lawsuit against the Trump Administration over the 2020 Census. City Attorney Feuer's Office recently joined with the California Attorney General and other jurisdictions to sue President Trump over his attempt to omit non-citizens from the census count and previously joined successful litigation blocking the Trump Administration's attempt to put a citizenship question on the Census.
Chief Assistant City Attorney Kathleen A. Kenealy, Senior Assistant City Attorney Valerie Flores, Assistant City Attorney Michael Dundas, and Deputy City Attorney Danielle Goldstein spearhead the Census Bureau litigation for the City Attorney’s office.
People may respond to the 2020 Census online.