States Sue Trump Administration over Census Question
On Tuesday, a collection of twelve Democratic states filed lawsuits against the Trump Administration over the planned introduction of a new Census question asking about immigration status. The States claim that the Census is being used for political purposes, and that the question could have significant effects on federal funding, populations counts, and government districting.
Leading the lawsuit is the New York State Attorney General, Eric T. Schneiderman, along with a coalition of States, including Connecticut, Massachusetts, Delaware, Illinois, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Washington, and Oregon. The State of California is also suing, but in a separate brief.
The issue first arose on Monday, when the Commerce Department, led by Wilbur Ross, announced that it was reinstating a question on the Census that asks if the person being surveyed is a U.S. Citizen. The announcement claimed that the new question would provide, “more effective enforcement of the Voting Rights Act” and that, “obtaining complete and accurate information to meet this legitimate government purpose outweighed the limited potential adverse impacts.”
The Twelve Democratic States, along with a variety of legal experts, have expressed serious concerns with the new question. They fear that its addition will cause both legal and illegal immigrants to not fill out the next Census, which could have adverse effects on the planned Congressional redistricting of 2021.
Attorney General Schneiderman expressed this belief in his announcement of the lawsuit, saying that the new Census will, “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.”
The Trump Administration and its allies have defended the controversial decision as vital to protect the Voting Rights Act and as a way to obtain an accurate count of citizens in the nation. Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) spoke out in support of the plan, saying, “The only way to get an accurate count is to add a question about citizenship to the census itself.”
For both Republicans and Democrats, the 2020 Census is key to determining who will have future control over Congress. If large portions of immigrant populations do not respond, or are not counted in the census, the Democratic party could lose vital seats, and even control of the House or Senate.
There are still two full years before the next Census is due to be released, but the deadline for submitting new questions is only days away. The multi-state lawsuit filed against the Trump administration has the potential to cause a major setback in the release of the Census, and a prolonged legal battle could further exacerbate the problem.