(KGTV/AP) - California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the Trump administration over a decision to include a citizenship question on the upcoming U.S. Census.
On Monday, the U.S. Commerce Department announced the reinstatement of the citizenship status question for the 2020 census. The question has not been a part of the census since World War II.
Commerce Department officials said adding the question will help the Justice Department enforce the Voting Rights Act, which protects minority voting rights. It said that between 1820 and 1950, almost every decennial census asked a question on citizenship in some form.
“Secretary [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,” officials said in a press release issued Monday.
The population count taken every 10 years is more than an academic exercise. It's required by the Constitution and used to determine the number of seats each state has in the House as well as how federal funds are distributed to local communities. It helps communities determine where to build everything from schools and grocery stores to hospitals.
A coalition of state attorneys general, including Becerra, urged the department last month to not add such a question, saying it could lower participation among immigrants and cause a population undercount.
In an op-ed published on the San Francisco Chronicle website, Becerra said a citizenship question “would discourage noncitizens and their citizen family members from responding to the census, resulting in a less accurate population count.”
Becerra also added: “California, with its large immigrant communities, would be disproportionately harmed by depressed participation in the 2020 census. An undercount would threaten at least one of California’s seats in the House of Representatives (and, by extension, an elector in the electoral college.) It would deprive California and its cities and counties of their fair share of billions of dollars in federal funds.”
Becerra announced the lawsuit on his Twitter account Tuesday morning:
Here's the lawsuit we filed last night against @realdonaldtrump's #census2020 decision. #California simply has too much to lose for us to allow his Administration to botch this obligation! #citizenship pic.twitter.com/Kp1WWJ3jC8
— Xavier Becerra (@AGBecerra) March 27, 2018
Census counts are taken by mail and by workers walking neighborhoods. The Census Bureau says that the 2010 census drew a massive response, with about 74 percent of the households mailing in forms, and the remaining households counted by workers in neighborhoods.