April 5, 2018
On March 26 Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced that he would reinstate a question on legal U.S. citizenship that has not appeared since 1950 on the 2020 Census questionnaire.
The change in policy was greeted by great consternation on the part of Democrats—but was lauded by Republicans. Indeed , a poll of 1,000 U.S. adults released on March 30 by the Republican-leaning Rasmussen Reports organization found that 89% agree that it’s at least “somewhat important” for the government to get as accurate account of U.S. citizens as possible—including 69% who believe that it’s “very important.” Only 25% disagree.
Democrats counter that fewer people will respond to a survey that includes a citizenship question—and that America will collect less population data as a result. Test surveys conducted by the Census Bureau in late 2017 found that some immigrants were afraid to provide information to U.S. Census workers because of fears about being deported.
The Census data is highly important because it is used to determine representation in the U.S. House of Representatives, as well as federal spending allocations and electoral votes by state.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra was the first to file a suit contesting what he called “a bad idea” on March 26, according to ABC News.
The next day, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said he would lead a coalition of 18 states, six major cities and the U.S. Conference of Mayors in filing a lawsuit against the Trump administration for inclusion of the question.
At a press conference announcing the suit, Schneiderman commented, “This is a blatant effort to undermine the Census. Someone from the Trump administration knocking on your door asking about your citizenship status would provoke real fear.”
In an interview with Fox Business, Ross asserted that the question was added at the request of the Department of Justice to protect minorities. “The Justice Department feels they need it so that they can enforce section two of the voting rights act, which protects minority voters,” said Ross.
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