By Susan McFarland – UPI
A number of cities and states have joined a New York lawsuit against the Trump administration’s controversial decision to add a question about citizenship to the United States’ 2020 Census.
Eleven states said Tuesday they would be a party to the lawsuit, led by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
Joining New York so far are Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Washington. California is party to the legal challenge in a separate lawsuit.
The Commerce Department announced Monday it would add a question about citizenship status to the 2020 Census — a long-abandoned practice which has not appeared on any Census since 1950. The tactic is an effort to enforce the Voting Rights Act.
U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Monday collecting citizenship data has been “a long-standing historical practice.”
“For the approximately 90 percent of the population who are citizens, this question is no additional imposition,” Ross wrote in a memo explaining the change. “And for the approximately 70 percent of non-citizens who already answer this question accurately on the [American Community Survey], the question is no additional imposition.”
Schneiderman said it’s a primary responsibility of the Census Bureau to ensure the most accurate count of the U.S. population.
“A fair and accurate count of all people in America is one of the federal government’s most solemn constitutional obligations,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “The Trump administration’s reckless decision to suddenly abandon nearly 70 years of practice by demanding to know the citizenship status of each resident counted cuts to the heart of this sacred obligation – and will create an environment of fear and distrust in immigrant communities.”
Attorneys general for the states involved the suit say the question could lead to undocumented immigrants not answering the Census, which could result in an inaccurate count that could resonate for years.
Inaccurate Census data could risk billions of dollars in federal funding for health care, education and law enforcement, opponents say.
Asking about citizenship status poses a significant danger in so-called “sanctuary cities” that do not cooperate with federal immigration orders, out of concern for unintended consequences in their communities. Several of the United States’ largest cities — including New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco — are in this category.
“The Census numbers provide the backbone for planning how our communities can grow and thrive in the coming decade. California simply has too much to lose for us to allow the Trump administration to botch this important decennial obligation,” Becerra said.