A federal judge in California on Saturday ordered the Trump administration to temporarily halt “winding down or altering any Census field operations” after the Trump administration moved to cut Census collection operations from eight to four months.
The temporary restraining order, which applies nationwide, issued by U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in the Northern District of California blocks Trump administration officials such as Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross from moving forward with plans involving “winding down or altering any Census field operations.”
The temporary restraining order is in effect until a hearing on September 17, amid several other lawsuits that are pending in courts nationwide.
In the order, Koh wrote that the harm caused by the Trump administration’s Census counting plans would be “potentially” irreparable. Koh wrote that an inaccurate Census count could not be resolved for another decade and would greatly impact the distribution of federal funding and local resources.
In a statement issued on Saturday, the Census Bureau said that along with the Commerce Department, it is “obligated to comply with the Court’s Order and are taking immediate steps to do so.”
“The Bureau and the Department are also in the process of preparing additional guidance and will distribute that guidance shortly,” the Census Bureau wrote. “Enumeration will continue.”
The order comes after the Trump administration reduced the Census’s enumeration period due to statutory constraints related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The administration’s plan would also stop the Census Bureau from counting on Sept. 30 — a month before the originally scheduled deadline.
Additionally, the order was issued after challengers led by the National Urban League — which include civil rights groups, local governments as well as the Navajo Nation and the Gila River Indian Community in Arizona — filed an emergency request as part of a federal lawsuit. The coalition demands that the Census Bureau continue counting through the end of October.
Last month, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) warned in a report that a curtailed Census counting period could pose more risks for an inaccurate count.
Last week, an internal Census Bureau document that a whistleblower provided to the House Oversight Committee warned that the Trump administration’s plan to rush the 2020 count will “reduce accuracy,” “negatively” impact the redistricting data the count produces, and creates “risk for serious errors not being discovered in the data.”