LOS ANGELES — California is suing the Trump administration over its decision to add a question about citizenship to the 2020 U.S. Census, calling the move a reckless decision that violates the Constitution.
The lawsuit was filed in federal court Monday hours after the Commerce Department announced the citizenship question would be added to the next Census to enforce the Voting Rights Act, which protects minority voting rights and helps prevent the unlawful dilution of the vote based on race.
The lawsuit argues that the Constitution mandates a count of every single person in the nation, regardless of immigration status.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra likened the Commerce Department move to reports that the U.S. government used Census data to help identify Japanese Americans who were sent to internment camps during WWII.
“The Trump administration has yet again failed to learn from history,” Becerra told reporters Tuesday. “They failed to consider the consequences of scaring people into not filling out the Census forms.”
Asking about citizenship status will lead to an undercount of California’s population, which would jeopardize vital services for the entire state and its representation in the federal government, Becerra said.
The move “rolls back the clock on civil rights and voting rights in America,” said California Secretary of State Alex Padilla.
“Questioning the citizenship status of every person in America is unfortunately just a continuation of the president’s blatant agenda to fan the flames of anti-immigrant hostility in our nation,” Padilla said.
He said the argument that the citizenship question will help enforce the Voting Rights Act “is not just laughable — it’s contemptible.”
The Commerce Department said in a statement that Secretary Wilbur Ross determined that “obtaining complete and accurate information … outweighed the limited potential adverse impacts.”
Required by the Constitution, the U.S. Census is taken every 10 years.
It helps determine the number of seats each state has in the House and how federal money is distributed to local communities. It also helps communities determine where to build schools, hospitals and grocery stores.
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