Trump Admin Faces State Suits Over Citizenship Question On 2020 Census

by Bamidele Ogunberu Last updated on March 29th, 2018,

Washington, D.C., USA: New Jersey, Massachusetts and California have already said they will sue the Trump administration over a decision to include a citizenship question on the 2020 U.S. Census and today New York State Attorney General, Eric Schneider also announced a suit
by a coalition of blue states.

Eric Schneiderman, a Democrat, said Tuesday that the question asking residents about their citizenship status will create fear and mistrust in immigrant communities and could skew census results if some immigrants choose not to participate.

At the start of every decade, the bureau counts the total number of people in the United States — not the total number of citizens — to determine each state’s congressional influence and other relevant matters.

The census results are the basis for each state’s number of seats in the U.S. House as well as its share of federal funding.

In December, the Justice Department asked the Census Bureau to reinstate the question on the census, which has not appeared since 1950.

The U.S. Commerce Department said Monday that a question about citizenship will be added to the 2020 Census as a way to enforce the Voting Rights Act.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in making the announcement, Monday, said collecting citizenship data has been “a long-standing historical practice.”

“For the approximately 90 percent of the population who are citizens, this question is no additional imposition,” Ross wrote in a memo explaining the change. “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.”

“[Census] data are relied on for a myriad of important government decisions, including apportionment of congressional seats among states, enforcement of voting rights laws and allocation of federal funds,” he added. “These are foundational elements of our democracy, and it is therefore incumbent upon the department and the Census Bureau to make every effort to provide a complete and accurate decennial census.”

Democrats argue that adding the question will lead to an inaccurate population count because it will discourage some immigrants from filling out the questionnaire.

Critics have charged that the Census is supposed to count all US residents, including illegal aliens, who are believed less likely to respond to forms in the mail that include a citizenship question.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed a lawsuit against the decision to add the question back into the census, and said via Twitter that “California simply has too much to lose for us to allow his Administration to botch this obligation!”

The first census took place under Thomas Jefferson when he was secretary of State in 1790, after the American Revolution. Since then, 22 federal censuses have been taken.

The Decennial Census is the country’s biggest peacetime mobilization designed by the founders — not to count how many citizens are in the country but how many persons reside within the borders, regardless of legal status, race, ethnicity, economic background or living conditions.

Adding a question about citizenship to the process, one that already suffers from lower-than-ideal levels of participation, will further inhibit that participation rate by stirring up existing fears of government intrusion and, in this case, of the information being turned over to

The first census took place under Thomas Jefferson when he was secretary of State in 1790, after the American Revolution. Since then, 22 federal censuses have been taken.

The Decennial Census is the country’s biggest peacetime mobilization designed by our founders — not to count how many citizens are in the country but how many persons reside within our borders, regardless of legal status, race, ethnicity, economic background or living conditions. Adding a question about citizenship to the process, one that already suffers from lower-than-ideal levels of participation, will further inhibit that participation rate by stirring up existing fears of government intrusion and, in this case, of the information being turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents for deportation proceedings.

The last census in 2010 put the U.S. population at nearly 309 million.

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Bamidele Ogunberu

Bamidele Ogunberu

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