The Commerce Department announced Monday night that the administration would reinstate the question of citizenship for the 2020 census, a contentious move President Donald Trump's Justice Department has urged since the early days of his presidency. The questions in the census are generally benign, he said, but "asking about citizenship status, especially given the rhetoric about immigrants coming out of Washington, is something that in my view will spook people".
She said the administration made a decision to reinstate the question because it has "provided data that's necessary for the Department of Justice to protect voters, and specifically to help us better comply with the Voting Rights Act, which is something that's important and part of this process".
NY announced it would also lead a separate multi-state lawsuit to challenge the move on Tuesday.
"Ross's decision follows a request by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to add a question on citizenship status to the 2020 decennial census", the department said in a statement.
Democrats have vowed to fight the inclusion of the question, viewing the decision as another front in the Trump administration's ongoing war with California over illegal immigration and the state's passage of so-called sanctuary laws that limit local law enforcement communication with federal immigration authorities.
In an op-ed published on the San Francisco Chronicle website, Becerra said a citizenship question "would discourage noncitizens and their citizen family members from responding to the census, resulting in a less accurate population count".
The census figures determine the number of seats each state is allocated in the U.S. House of Representatives as well as how the federal government distributes hundreds of billions of dollars in funding for various programs. A citizenship question is a late addition to the census as other census questions have already been announced. Citizenship questions have also been included on prior decennial censuses.
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The Trump administration has provoked threats of lawsuits and a backlash from senior Democrats after deciding to reinstate a controversial question about citizenship status in the next United States census.
While the White House characterized the move as a way to help protect minority voting rights, demographics experts, civil rights leaders and Democratic lawmakers argue that it will lead many undocumented immigrants to opt out of answering Census questions entirely, leading to a dramatic undercounting in areas where they live.
"The Trump administration's decision to ask about citizenship on the U.S. Census is a gross political act that launches another missile at the heart of NY". "If you drive those people out of the Census, the effect is that they're not in it".
Former U.S. Attorney Eric Holder has described the Trump administration action as a "direct attack on our representative democracy" and we inclined to agree.
California and NY vowed to sue to block the move, saying it will deter immigrants from participating.
Because the once-a-decade census is used to determine congressional and political districts and to dole out federal resources, an undercount in heavily immigrant areas could substantially impact certain states and major cities and potentially their representation at the federal level. The Census Bureau now asks about place of birth, citizenship and year of entry on a separate survey conducted every year called the American Community Survey, sampling only a portion of the population.
Census data helps the U.S. government calculate funding distribution and draw up districts for state and local elections.