18 attorneys general and 6 cities file lawsuit against Commerce Department

Lucy Bush
April 4, 2018

- Seventeen states, the District of Columbia and six cities have sued the us government, saying plans to add a citizenship demand to the census questionnaire is unconstitutional. They say that a nationwide, person-by-person citizenship inquiry will actually harm minority representation by driving down participation among both citizens and noncitizens in immigrant communities-a concern that is even more acute in today's political climate.

The Census Bureau hasn't included a citizenship question in its survey of all USA households since 1950, well before the passage of a 1965 law meant to ensure minority groups were fully represented in the once-a-decade count.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday morning in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, was joined by the Attorneys General from the US states of New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia. He said it would depress turnout in immigrant-heavy states and mocked U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions for saying the question was necessary to enforce the 1965 Voting Rights Act, noting that Sessions has called the act "an intrusive piece of legislation".

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In Maryland, where almost 15 percent of people are foreign-born and around 250,000 are undocumented, Attorney General Brian Frosh said the question would result in the loss of federal funds for the state and deprive it of fair representation in Congress.

In announcing the lawsuit Tuesday in New York City, Schneiderman called the citizenship question unsafe and damaging.

Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Providence and Seattle, as well as the city and county of San Francisco have also signed on as plaintiffs in the case. The resulting undercount would deprive immigrant communities of fair representation when legislative seats are apportioned and district lines are drawn. The lawsuit was filed on Tuesday in Manhattan federal court.

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In 2009, all eight former Directors of the Census Bureau dating back to 1979 - who served under both Democratic and Republican presidents - affirmed that a citizenship question would depress participation and lead to a significant undercount, undermining the goal of the census itself.

A population undercount would deprive states of hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funds that are allocated in part based on census data, including funding for education, housing, and infrastructure nationwide. Consequently, inaccurate counts can potentially deprive states of much-needed funds created to protect low-income and vulnerable communities.

The long form has now been discontinued and instead the census relies on the American Community Survey, which is sent to between 1 and 2 percent of households each year, for citizenship estimates. "We are being unfairly targeted because we have large, diverse immigrant populations which we welcome and support".

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Other reports by Info About Network

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