At least 12 states have indicated that they plan to file lawsuits in a bid to block the Trump administration from asking everyone if they are a citizen in the 2020 US Census.
New York State attorney general Eric T. Schneiderman revealed on Tuesday that he was leading a multi-state lawsuit after the government announced it would reintroduce a question about citizenship status in the questionnaire.
Schneiderman said the lawsuit would be to preserve a ‘fair and accurate Census’ as he slammed the Trump administration’s decision to ask the citizenship question as ‘reckless’.
He added that the question would ‘create an environment of fear and distrust in immigrant communities that would make impossible both an accurate Census and the fair distribution of federal tax dollars’.
New York State attorney general Eric T. Schneiderman said on Tuesday he was leading a multi-state lawsuit over the decision to reintroduce a citizenship question in the 2020 US Census
‘This move directly targets states like New York that have large, thriving immigrant populations – threatening billions of dollars in federal funding for New York, as well as fair representation in Congress and the Electoral College,’ he said.
Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Washington plan to join the lawsuit, the New York Times reports.
California already announced on Monday that it would sue.
‘The census is supposed to count everyone,’ said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey.
‘This is a blatant and illegal attempt by the Trump administration to undermine that goal, which will result in an undercount of the population and threaten federal funding for our state and cities.’
The issue of citizenship has proved to a sensitive area in the Trump era, given he has made cracking down on legal and illegal immigration one of his hallmarks.
The Commerce Department, which oversees the census, said the question will be added at the request of the Justice Department in order to help determine possible violations of the Voting Rights Act.
That law, however, is aimed at prohibiting racial discrimination at the polls while the census tally is used to determine the number of seats alloted to each state in the House of Representatives.
Only US citizens are allowed to register to vote but Trump has long claimed, without providing proof, that millions of illegal immigrants voted in the 2016 presidential election.
The last time a question about citizenship was included in the census questionnaire, which currently covers about 3.5 million people, was 1950.
Critics fear that asking people if they are US citizens could discourage some minorities from taking part in the census, out of fear the information will be used against them, and thus undermine the accuracy of the tally.
They say that even immigrants with legal residency status may be reluctant to take part if they have ties to people who do not have papers.
The population tally affects distribution of more than $675 billion in annual federal funding for schools, hospitals, roads and other public services, according to the Census Bureau.
When Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced the return of the citizenship question on Monday evening, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra immediately announced he would sue over the change.
In a memo announcing the change, Ross wrote that ‘neither the Census Bureau nor the concerned stakeholders could document that the response rate would in fact decline materially’ if a citizenship question were added.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra wasted no time challenging the change, however, calling the citizenship question ‘truly insidious’ in a San Francisco Chronicle op-ed.
‘It would discourage noncitizens and their citizen family members from responding to the census, resulting in a less accurate population count,’ Becerra wrote.
Becerra said in a statement that he filing a federal lawsuit over the citizenship question, calling it ‘illegal’ to add to the 2020 Census.