Politics & Policy

California Sues to Prevent Citizenship Question on U.S. Census

(Mike Blake/Reuters)

The state of California sued the Trump administration Monday to block the inclusion of a question about citizenship status on the 2020 U.S. census.

California attorney general Xavier Becerra submitted a complaint about the question last month along with 18 other Democratic state attorneys general, who are concerned that the citizenship-status question will reduce census-response rates, thereby decreasing their states’ representation in the House of Representatives.

The Justice Department requested that the Commerce Department include the question last year in order to aid in the enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. The plan calls for it to be asked last in order to avoid discouraging illegal immigrants from responding, according to a memo released Monday by commerce secretary Wilbur Ross.

In the memo, Ross defended the administration’s decision on the basis that it will help eliminate the influence of illegal immigrants in artificially inflating a given congressional district’s voting population. Ross also cited historical precedent, pointing out that census respondents were asked about their citizenship status from 1820 to 1950.

Becerra, as well as a number of Democratic lawmakers, have argued that the citizenship question will dramatically reduce response rates and negatively impact federal programs that rely on accurate population data.

“It is long settled that all persons residing in the United States — citizens and non-citizens alike — must be counted to fulfill the Constitution’s ‘actual Enumeration’ mandate,” the lawsuit filed by Becerra states.

House minority leader Nancy Pelosi said that if the question is asked, it “will inject fear and distrust into vulnerable communities and cause traditionally under-counted communities to be even further under-represented, financially excluded, and left behind.”

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