Census: Decision to add citizenship question draws protest

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The citizenship question will likely appear on the 2020 Census

The US state of California has already filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration, arguing that the decision to add a question about citizenship in the 2020 Census violates the US Constitution. The agencies believe it will help enforce the Voting Rights Act.

The U.S. Department of Justice had requested that the U.S. Commerce Department add a question on citizenship to the 2020 census in order to get more accurate data on citizen voting age population so government can better detect violations of minority voting rights. He argued that collecting citizenship data has been a "long-standing historical practice" and continues among sample populations in the regular Census "to this day".

And as it is, the Census Bureau itself estimated that its 2010 count undercounted the Latino population in the USA by 1.5 percent and the black population by 2.1 percent, numbers that experts say will be much worse with the new question.

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California Attorney General Xavier Becerra asked a United States court to place an injunction on the question.

The Commerce Department, which oversees the Census, says it is including the question in part to provide the Justice Department with the information it needs to implement the Voting Rights Act. "Including a citizenship question on the 2020 census is not just a bad idea - it is illegal". Researchers said respondents had specific fears about sharing confidential information with researchers, and attributed it to moves from the Trump administration to target immigrants and people of color such as the Muslim travel ban, the dismantling of DACA, and the empowerment of ICE agents.

California has already said it will sue the Trump administration over the decision.

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Ross noted the concerns about lower response rates, including from the Census Bureau itself, but said his department's own review "found that limited empirical evidence exists about whether adding a citizenship question would decrease response rates materially".

It would mean that congressional districts would not be accurately drawn, federal education funding would be skewed, health statistics often used for medical research would be out of whack and various federal programs that dole out benefits based on population from roads and law enforcement to farm aid would be made unfair.

"The Justice Department is committed to free and fair elections for all Americans and has sought reinstatement of the citizenship question on the census to fulfil that commitment", the department statement read. It is used to determine the allocation to states of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and to distribute billions of dollars in federal funds to local communities. Democratic states with high immigrant populations fear the citizenship question will cause an undercount in their states, which could lead to diminished political representation in Congress. "The addition of a citizenship question to the census questionnaire is a direct attack on our representative democracy".

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NY state's attorney general said on Tuesday he will lead a multistate lawsuit to try to stop the federal government from asking people whether they are citizens in the 2020 Census, arguing the move will discourage immigrants from participating.

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