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States Sue to Block Citizenship Question on 2020 Census

By Ceylan Pumphrey, Esq. on March 29, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

President Trump has made it clear that immigration reform is one of his priorities. So, it's no surprise that the Trump administration has decided to put a question back on the U.S. census asking about citizenship. The Justice Department asked officials to add the question about citizenship because it said that it needed better data on the voting age population in order to help enforce the Voting Rights Act.

The Secretary of Commerce, which is the department in charge of the census, agreed to grant the request. But, as with most decisions that the Trump administration makes -- especially when it comes to immigration -- many states have taken issue with this decision. In fact, several states will sue to block the citizenship question on the census.

Challenging the Citizenship Question

The state of California immediately challenged the plan to add a citizenship question to the census by filing a lawsuit in federal court. The California Attorney General and Secretary of State criticized the plan as anti-immigrant. Similarly, New York announced it would also lead a multi-state lawsuit to challenge the citizenship question.

The census data isn't just a tool to collect information about the population in the U.S. It's used to calculate a variety of things, including the number of votes each state gets in the Electoral College and the number of representatives in Congress allotted to each state. The information from the census is also used to determine the amount of federal funding local governments receive for various programs, including the National School Lunch Program and Medicaid.

Many people see problems with adding a citizenship question to the census. For example, people who oppose adding the citizenship question to the census fear that immigrant families and undocumented immigrants won't complete and return the form after seeing the question. This, in turn, could result in inaccurate answers and reduced response rates, which could especially impact states with large immigrant populations.

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