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CAIR, CAIR-NY Join Japanese Americans Incarcerated in World War II and the Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality in SCOTUS Brief Challenging Census Citizenship Question

(NEW YORK, NY, 4/2/19) — The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, and its New York chapter (CAIR-NY) today announced the filing of a U.S. Supreme Court amicus (friend of the court) brief supporting the challengers in the ongoing 2020 census citizenship question litigation, Department of Commerce v. New York


Other amici include the Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality at Seattle University School of Law, Norman Y. Mineta, a former Secretary of Commerce, and three other American citizens of Japanese descent whose incarceration during World War II was facilitated by the Census Bureau’s sharing of confidential census data. Akin Gump is serving as pro bono counsel for the brief.

On April 23, 2019, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments pertaining to whether the secretary of commerce’s decision to add a citizenship question violated the law. Challengers argue that the government was driven by racial and xenophobic animus and has since invented justifications for the change in policy. Judge Furman of the Southern District of New York ruled that the Department of Commerce added the citizenship question through a process that violated the Administrative Procedures Act and made several findings of fact suggesting that the government’s justifications are pretextual.

In the brief filed yesterday, amici argue that the Supreme Court should affirm Judge Furman’s ruling and reject the government’s pretextual reasons for adding a citizenship question to the decennial census. Amici emphasize that the census process works only if the public trusts that the government will not misuse the information.

Though the Census Act prohibits the government from using census information for anything other than statistical purposes, past incidents in which the government misused census data support fears that citizenship information could be misused. Amici remind the Court of one of the most glaring and heinous examples of such abuse — the Census Bureau’s central role in targeting Japanese Americans for incarceration during World War II.

In that instance, the Supreme Court’s deference to the executive branch contributed to an appalling violation of civil and human rights. Today, amici argue, the Supreme Court must impose searching judicial scrutiny to root out any pretext for an unconstitutional census policy.

As Professor Robert S. Chang, executive director of the Korematsu Center, explains, “The shameful legacy of Japanese American incarceration during World War II shows what can happen when the courts allow themselves to be fooled by the government’s pretexts for unconstitutional policies. We urge the Court to conduct a searching review in this case to determine whether the government’s real reasons for adding a citizenship question to the census”” in a process the trial judge found to be deeply flawed””support its decision or are simply a mask for a question that could deter the full participation of immigrants and communities of color.”

CAIR National Litigation and Civil Rights Director Lena F. Masri, Esq., added: “The Supreme Court should reject this administration’s latest attempt to marginalize Muslim immigrants and others from the political process.”

Ahmed Mohamed, Esq., litigation director of CAIR-NY, said: “The Court must protect the integrity of the census. This administration must not be given an opportunity to weaponize the census to suppress the voice of immigrants and minorities. We urge the court to fulfill its duty and block unlawful discrimination.”

Lead pro bono counsel Pratik A. Shah, co-head of the Supreme Court and appellate practice at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, states: “By eroding public trust in the process, the Secretary’s addition of a suspect citizenship question only undermines the government’s ability to fulfill its constitutional census duty.”

Pro bono counsel on the brief are: Robert S. Chang and Lorraine K. Bannai of the Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality at Seattle University School of Law; Ronald A. Peterson of the Law Clinic at Seattle University School of Law; as well as attorneys from Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, including Pratik A. Shah, as Counsel of Record, Robert H. PeesAlice HsuZ.W. Julius Chen; and Geoffrey J. Derrick.

CAIR’s mission is to protect civil rights, enhance understanding of Islam, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.

La misión de CAIR es proteger las libertades civiles, mejorar la comprensión del Islam, promover la justicia, y empoderar a los musulmanes en los Estados Unidos.


CONTACT: CAIR National Litigation and Civil Rights Director Lena Masri,, 202-742-6420, CAIR-NY Litigation Director Ahmed Mohamed,; 646-481-2103; CAIR Senior Litigation Attorney Gadeir Abbas, 720-251-0425,; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726,


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