Opponents of the citizenship question have argued in the past that it causes people to shy away from taking the census - and experts believe a drop in numbers could lead to an inaccurate count of the U.S. population.
The question would ask people to disclose whether they are in the country legally.
The Trump administration announced Monday that it will include a controversial question about citizenship status on the 2020 Census, bringing back a query that has not appeared on the decennial survey since 1950.
Former Obama administration Attorney General Eric Holder also blasted the move and said his organization, which focuses on voting enfranchisement and redistricting, would also pursue litigation against what he called an "irresponsible decision".
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After a thorough review of the legal, program, and policy considerations, as well as numerous discussions with Census Bureau leadership, Members of Congress, and interested stakeholders, Secretary Ross has determined that reinstatement of a citizenship question on the 2020 decennial census questionnaire is necessary to provide complete and accurate census block level data.
"A question about U.S. citizenship on 2020 census will massively depress responses from immigrants & sabotage entire census", tweeted Ari Berman, an author who writes about voting rights in the modern era.
"On December 12, 2017, DOJ requested that the Census Bureau reinstate a citizenship question on the decennial census to provide census block level citizenship voting age population (CVAP) data that is not now available from government surveys", officials said. He also argued that the lateness of the request is impractical; states could lose representatives in Congress and federal funding due to a wrong Census tally; and that the request actually makes it harder to enforce Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The move comes after the Commerce Department said Monday night that it would add the question as a way to better comply with the Voting Rights Act.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday that adding such a question "will inject fear and distrust into vulnerable communities and cause traditionally undercounted communities to be even further under-represented, financially excluded and left behind". "What the Trump Administration is requesting is not just alarming, it is an unconstitutional attempt to discourage an accurate census count". "My guess? We will have a less accurate census than the nation could have had". And other, smaller population surveys, such as the Current Population Survey and the American Community Survey, continue to ask respondents about it. The Justice Department now uses data from that survey to enforce the Voting Rights Act, but says the data is "insufficient in scope, detail, and certainty" for use in identifying voting rights violations, Ross wrote.
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"An undercount would threaten at least one of California's seats in the House of Representatives (and, by extension, an elector in the electoral college)", they wrote. An undercount, Becerra and Padilla argued, could jeopardize crucial community services such as homeland security funds, natural disaster preparation, and health care and infrastructure resources.
The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund said the addition "would have catastrophic consequences for Latinos and all Americans".
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