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Trump Administration Will Add Citizenship Question to 2020 Census

28 March 2018

The Commerce Department says the 2020 U.S. Census will include a question about citizenship status, a move that brought a rapid response by opponents.

Pressed on whether this would disproportionately affect more liberal states, Sanders said: "I think that it is going to determine the individuals in our country and provide information that allows us to provide with our own laws, our own procedures".

The decennial census has not included a question about citizenship since 1950, although the more detailed sampling surveys have.

Schneiderman says the decision to add the question "directly targets" states with large immigrant populations.

"The citizenship question is the latest attempt by President Trump to stoke the fires of anti-immigrant hostility", Padilla said in a statement.

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In a statement, the Commerce Department pointed to previous census questions as justification for the shift. The Census, which happens only once every 10 years, is used to determine the allocation of $700 billion in federal grant money, apportion representatives in Congress, and determine how electoral boundaries are drawn and how many votes each state is given in the Electoral College. Becerra also argued the move violated the Administrative Procedure Act's prohibition against "arbitrary and capricious" agency action.

Commerce Department officials said adding the question will help the Justice Department enforce the Voting Rights Act, which protects minority voting rights. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed suit against the administration Monday night.

The United States Conference of Mayors said in a recent letter to Wilbur Ross, commerce secretary, that the citizenship question would "increase the burden on respondents, heighten privacy concerns. and lower participation by immigrants who fear that the government will use the information to harm them and their families". Asking census respondents if they are citizens would help the government gather now unavailable data on the population of people who are actually eligible to vote, the memorandum said.

As early as September of a year ago, months before the announcement that the question was a possibility, Census researchers spoke up about exactly these concerns.

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Becerra and his state have been central to virtually every legal challenge of the Trump administration on issues ranging from immigration, to the environment, to health care.

Commerce says that between 1820 and 1950, nearly every decennial census asked a question on citizenship in some form.

The complaint will challenge the addition of the citizenship question as a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

But other organizations, like the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a group that has lobbied for immigrant rights in the past, disputed that claim, calling the choice to include a citizenship question an "arbitrary and untested decision that all but guarantees that the census will not produce a full and accurate count of the population as the constitution requires".

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Trump Administration Will Add Citizenship Question to 2020 Census