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'Outrageous' and 'Disturbing': Openly Defying Federal Court Order, Wilbur Ross Moves to Shut Down Census Early

"Complying with a federal court's order is not optional. The Trump administration is flouting the rule of law to undercount and erase our communities."

Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross testifies during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on March 5, 2020. (Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

Just days after a federal judge ordered the Trump administration to reinstate the previous October 31 deadline for the 2020 census, the U.S. Census Bureau late Monday released a one-sentence statement announcing that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross plans to shut down the once-in-a-decade count on October 5 in open defiance of court instructions.

"The Secretary of Commerce has announced a target date of October 5, 2020 to conclude 2020 census self-response and field data collection operations," the Census Bureau said in a Twitter post just minutes before a court hearing on the administration's compliance with last week's court order.

"This is disturbing and another example of the Trump administration politicizing the census. Rushing the census risks an inaccurate census and a constitutional crisis."
—Sen. Jeanne Shaheen

In response to the bureau's statement, Judge Lucy Koh of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ordered the Commerce Department to turn over records related to the decision to shut down the census on October 5 by Tuesday at 1 pm ET.

Civil rights groups that have been fighting the Trump administration's push to prematurely shut down the 2020 census raised alarm at Ross' brazen effort to bypass Koh's order extending the deadline, which activists applauded last week as an essential step toward ensuring an accurate count for the proper allocation of congressional seats and federal funding.

"Complying with a federal court's order is not optional," tweeted immigrant rights group Make the Road New York. "The Trump administration is flouting the rule of law to undercount and erase our communities."

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) said late Monday that Ross' defiance of a federal court order—which the Trump administration is currently appealing—is "disturbing and another example of the Trump administration politicizing the census."

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"Rushing the census risks an inaccurate census and a constitutional crisis," Shaheen warned.

Last month, the Census Bureau abruptly announced that it would be ending door-knocking and other counting efforts for the 2020 census on September 30—a decision rights groups immediately and successfully challenged in court, denouncing it as an effort to rush and "sabotage" the census count. Earlier this month, as Common Dreams reported, advocacy organizations also secured a court ruling blocking the Trump administration's attempt to exclude undocumented immigrants from the census.

In a statement late Monday responding to the Trump administration's latest effort to cut short the counting process, House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) said the Census Bureau's push for an October 5 deadline "appears to directly contradict the clear orders of a federal court, which requires the Census Bureau to continue counting households until October 31."

"This should not be a partisan issue," said Maloney. "The Trump administration's unlawful undercount will negatively affect the hundreds of millions of dollars that both red and blue states are due in federal funding. It is time that the Trump administration stopped working to politicize and jeopardize the 2020 census."

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