There are an estimated 10.7 million undocumented people living in the United States; the country as a whole has more than 331 million people (SPENCER PLATT)

New York (AFP) – A federal judge in New York on Tuesday denied President Donald Trump’s administration’s bid to reinstate a citizenship question in the US Census.

The ruling, seen as a win for Democrats and immigration rights groups, still could be taken up by the US Supreme Court.

Rights groups and several US states and cities opposed the move by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to add the question to the 2020 census.

Opponents of the question, removed from the Census for 60 years, said it was an effort by the administration to discourage illegal immigration.

There are an estimated 10.7 million undocumented people living in the United States. The country as a whole has more than 331 million people.

The results of the censuses carried out every 10 years determine how billions of dollars in federal money will be allocated to states, and also the number of seats each state has in the House of Representatives.

If non-citizens avoid census takers for fear of running afoul of immigration authorities, the states where they live could lose federal funding.

Since most non-citizens reside in Democratic-run states, they have the most to lose.

In his ruling on Tuesday, Judge Jesse Furman found that Ross, who oversees the census and announced the reintroduction of the nationality issue in March, violated US law.

Ross “failed to consider several important aspects of the problem; alternately ignored, cherry-picked, or badly misconstrued the evidence in the record before him; acted irrationally both in light of that evidence and his own stated decisional criteria; and failed to justify significant departures from past policies and practices,” the ruling said.

The Justice Department voiced dismay.

“We are disappointed and are still reviewing the ruling. Secretary Ross, the only person with legal authority over the census, reasonably decided to reinstate a citizenship question on the 2020 census in response to the Department of Justice’s request for better citizenship data, to protect voters against racial discrimination,” it said in a statement.

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