The Trump administration announced they will be reinstating a citizenship question on the 2020 census to “help enforce” the Voting Rights Act of 1965—and California is already pushing back.
The Commerce Department announced the decision Monday night.
“The citizenship question will be the same as the one that is asked on the yearly American Community Survey (ACS). Citizenship questions have also been included on prior decennial censuses. Between 1820 and 1950, almost every decennial census asked a question on citizenship in some form. Today, surveys of sample populations, such as the Current Population Survey and the ACS, continue to ask a question on citizenship,” reads a statement on the decision.
According to the Commerce Department, the request to include a citizenship question came from the Department of Justice in order to “provide census block level citizenship voting age population (CVAP) data that is not currently available from government surveys.” This data, the administration argues, will be used to protect minority voting rights.
“Having citizenship data at the census block level will permit more effective enforcement of the VRA, and Secretary Ross determined that obtaining complete and accurate information to meet this legitimate government purpose outweighed the limited potential adverse impacts,” the Commerce Department said.
California has already vowed to sue the administration, arguing the question would be unlawful.
“Filing suit against @realdonaldtrump's Administration over decision to add #citizenship question on #2020Census. Including the question is not just a bad idea — it is illegal,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra wrote on Twitter.
#BREAKING: Filing suit against @realdonaldtrump's Administration over decision to add #citizenship question on #2020Census. Including the question is not just a bad idea - it is illegal: https://t.co/vW8sa7khq9— Xavier Becerra (@AGBecerra) March 27, 2018
Other Democrats reacted similarly to the news.
"Constitution does not require citizenship question. This is purely political. Trump Administration is trying to rig the 2020 Census (to protect gerrymandering) by intimidating people. Don’t be fooled-some states will unfairly lose funds and representation. We will sue,” vowed former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who is also chair of theNational Democratic Redistricting Committee.
Constitution does not require citizenship question. This is purely political. Trump Administration is trying to rig the 2020 Census (to protect gerrymandering) by intimidating people. Don’t be fooled-some states will unfairly lose funds and representation. We will sue. https://t.co/2R3mZ0FQSp— Eric Holder (@EricHolder) March 27, 2018
The census's new citizenship question is another shameful Trump assault on our democracy. It will undoubtedly drive down census participation, and cost our communities federal funds and seats in Congress. Trump is worried about losing power so he's trying to take ours away. https://t.co/4AfLjtShAH— Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (@RepRoybalAllard) March 27, 2018
The Trump administration is undermining the 2020 Census with its anti-immigrant agenda.— ACLU (@ACLU) March 27, 2018
Undercounting communities with large immigrant populations could mean weakened political representation, and the loss of millions in aid for health, education, and infrastructure. https://t.co/9aw7In6u8W
We wrote a letter to Sec. Ross strongly opposing the addition of a citizenship question to the #2020Census.— Hispanic Caucus (@HispanicCaucus) March 27, 2018
This is yet another intentional decision by the Trump Admin to instill fear in communities & further an anti-immigrant agenda.
Read it ?? https://t.co/2n25ITsvpP pic.twitter.com/Swo7KwT8kv
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and her colleagues argued the question will discourage people from taking the census, leading to inaccurate information about the population.
“The inclusion of a question on citizenship threatens to undermine the accuracy of the Census as a whole,” they wrote in a letter to the DOJ in January.
“Given this administration’s rhetoric and actions relating to immigrants and minority groups, the [citizen question] request is deeply troubling,” they added. “Such a question would likely depress participation in the 2020 Census from immigrants who fear the government could use the information to target them. It could also decrease response rates from U.S. citizens who live in mixed-status households, and who might fear putting immigrant family members at risk through providing information to the government.”
Furthermore, they wrote, "This chilling effect could lead to broad inaccuracies across the board, from how congressional districts are drawn to how government funds are distributed. Rather than preserve civil rights, as the Justice Department claims, a question on citizenship in the decennial census would very likely hinder a full and accurate accounting of this nation’s population.”
The list of questions to be included in the census must be submitted to Congress no later than March 31, 2018.