The state of California is suing the Trump administration for allegedly violating the Constitution by adding a question inquiring about citizenship to the 2020 census questionnaire, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.
The Department of Commerce, carrying out a request from the Department of Justice, announced Monday that a citizenship question will be included in the census to better enforce the Voting Rights Act, CNN reported. The relevant Commerce Department statement said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross “has determined that reinstatement of a citizenship question on the 2020 decennial census questionnaire is necessary to provide complete and accurate census block level data,” Fox News reported.
“The decennial census is mandated in the Constitution and its 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,” Ross said in a memo.
Ross explained that the citizenship question helps provide a more accurate understanding of congressional districts. California, however, is concerned that the citizenship question may discourage illegal immigrants from participating in the census, resulting in an undercount and the possible redrawing of political districts, a loss of political representation on the national level, and increased benefits for the Republican Party as power shifts from the cities to rural America.
“We are prepared to do what we must to protect California from a deficient census,” California attorney General Xavier Becerra said in response, according to the Los Angeles Times, “Including a citizenship question on the 2020 census is not just a bad idea — it is illegal.”
“We will litigate to stop the Administration from moving forward with this irresponsible decision,” former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in a relevant statement, “The addition of a citizenship question to the census questionnaire is a direct attack on our representative democracy.”
“Make no mistake — this decision is motivated purely by politics,” Holder added, “In deciding to add this question without even testing its effects, the Administration is departing from decades of census policy and ignoring the warnings of census experts.”
The Department of Commerce argues that between 1820 and 1950, nearly every decennial census asked a question about citizenship. The question has also been on the long form for years now.
California’s lawsuit asserts that the move violates the constitutional requirement of “actual Enumeration,” which requires a complete count of every person in every state every ten years. “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 states.”
“The citizenship data provided,” Ross wrote in a memo on the new question, “will be more accurate with the question than without it, which is of greater importance than any adverse effect that may result from people violating their legal duty to respond.”