Trump Sued by California’s Attorney General Over Census Citizenship Question

March 27, 2018 – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said he plans to fight the Trump administration in court on its decision to include a question on citizenship in the 2020 census.

The question, which would ask residents in the U.S. to disclose whether they are in the country legally, will “derail the integrity of the census,” Becerra has warned.

“We’re prepared to do what we must to protect California from a deficient census,” Becerra said. “Including a citizenship question on the 2020 census is not just a bad idea—it is illegal,” the attorney general said in an op-ed published in the San Francisco Chronicle.

The question on citizenship has not been used in the census since 1950. However, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced his intention to reinstate it in a memo shared on the Department of Commerce website.

“For the approximately 90 percent of the population who are citizens, this question is no additional imposition,” Ross wrote in his memo. “And for the approximately 70 percent of non-citizens who already answer this question accurately on the [American Community Survey], the question is no additional imposition.”

The Department of Justice, led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, had pushed for the question to be included on the 2020 census, according to a report from ProPublica.

A number of lawmakers have condemned the move, with Democrat Senator José Serrano, who represents New York’s 15th district, saying the inclusion of the citizenship question “will only result in a low count and fear.”

Democrat Senator Carolyn Maloney, who represents New York’s 12th congressional district, accused Ross of having “succumbed to the hateful, nativist view” of the Trump administration and of having “deliberately compromised the integrity of the census for political purposes.”

GOP Representative Warren Davidson of Ohio’s 8th congressional district argued in favor of the move, however, saying that representation in the House “should be based on citizens, not on residents.”

Democratic Attorneys General from 19 states have already sent a letter to Ross, arguing that the citizenship question would be unconstitutional and could harm states and cities with large immigrant communities.

Becerra said California would be “disproportionately harmed” if residents chose not to participate in the census out of fear, given that the state has a large immigrant population.

“An undercount would threaten at least one of California’s seats in the House of Representatives (and by extension, an elector in the electoral college,” the attorney general said.

He added that depressed participation would “deprive California and its cities and counties of their fair share of billions of dollars in federal funds.”

Executive Director of non-profit organization Define American Ryan Eller told Newsweek in a statement that the inclusion of the citizenship question “goes against the census’ stated mission to ‘serve as the leading source of quality data about the nation’s people and economy.”

“If folks are fearful that this data is going to be misused they just won’t participate,” Eller added. “This question is also unnecessarily expensive, and possibly illegal. It’s definitely anti-immigrant, myopic, and yet again plays politics with a process that should be above political corruption.”

The commerce bureau is expected to announce its final list of census questions by the end of the week, Becerra has said.

He urged the Trump administration to end the “politicization of the 2020 census,” calling on Ross to “uphold the government’s constitutional duty to count all people in every part of the country.”

By Chantal Da Silva, Newsweek
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