By Andrew Chung
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court will decide the fate of a fiercely contested plan by President Donald Trump's administration to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, agreeing on Friday to an expedited review of a judge's ruling blocking the plan.
The justices, in a brief order, granted the administration's request to hear its appeal of Manhattan-based U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman's Jan. 15 ruling even before a lower appeals court has considered the matter. Oral arguments in the case will take place in late April, with a ruling due by the end of June.
Furman ruled that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had concealed the true motives for his "arbitrary and capricious" decision to add the citizenship question in violation of federal law.
Time is of the essence in the case, as the official census forms are due to be printed in the coming months.
Furman's ruling came in lawsuits brought by 18 U.S. states, 15 cities and various civil rights groups challenging the administration's decision to include the question. The plaintiffs said the question would scare immigrants and Latinos into abstaining from the census, disproportionately affecting Democratic-leaning states.
Trump has pursued hardline policies to limit legal and illegal immigration.
Opponents have accused the administration of trying to engineer an undercount of the true population and diminish the electoral representation of Democratic-leaning communities in Congress, benefiting Trump's fellow Republicans. Non-citizens comprise an estimated 7 percent of people living in the United States.
The U.S. Constitution mandates a census every 10 years. The official population count is used in the allocation of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and the distribution of billions of dollars in federal funds. There has not been a census question about citizenship status since 1950.
(Reporting by Andrew Chung; Editing by Will Dunham)
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Updated Date: Feb 16, 2019 01:07:37 IST