CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article stated that citizenship questions had been “absent from census documents since the 1950 census.” That was only partially true. Such questions have not appeared on the short form of the census — the version most Americans complete — since 1950, but did appear on the long form until 2010, when no long form was issued. Roughly 24 hours after publication, we reworded the article to state that citizenship questions have been “absent from most census forms since the 1950 census,” which more accurately reflects the truth. We apologize for any confusion we may have caused with our initially incomplete information.
Lawyers for the U.S. Department of Justice on Monday attacked the state of California’s challenge to the Trump administration’s addition of a citizenship question on the 2020 census and its claims that it could cost the state federal aid and congressional representation
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, California fears that it could lose congressional seats and billions in federal aid if the government discovers just how much of its population is made up of residents who aren’t actually citizens.
There is also the possibility that those who fear retribution or deportation might not respond to the census at all.
In a court filing, Justice Department attorneys argued that the state’s challenge should be thrown out because California can’t actually show that it would be harmed by the question being on the census, the Chronicle reported.
The fears of loss to the state are “highly speculative” and could be addressed by the United States Census Bureau’s plan to follow up with the households who do not respond to the census, administration attorneys argued, according to the Chronicle.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross made the decision to add a question about citizenship, despite it being absent from most census forms since the 1950 census.
That decision has caused lawsuits from multiple states with large immigrant populations accusing the Trump administration of a political motivation for adding the question.
The states that have sued argue the question will reduce participation in the census by noncitizens.
California is one of 16 states involved in suits against the Trump administration due to the 2020 census question.
The 15 other states that have challenged the question of citizenship have taken the case to trial in New York and are awaiting a verdict, according to the Chronicle.
USA Today reported that the census question’s opponents included not only some state governments but also the American Civil Liberties Union and immigration rights groups.
According to multiple news sources, including USA Today, the fear of undercounting illegal immigrants is primarily in areas dominated by Democrats, specifically in urban areas, where Democrats hold some of the congressional seats that could be cut.
Newsmax reported that California officials believe the state could lose up to five House seats because of the question.
There could also be a loss of local funding for public works and service projects, should large numbers of the community sit out the census, or should the government decide to only provide funding for legal citizens.
The Supreme Court is considering a request by the Trump administration that would prevent states from questioning Ross about his motivation for adding the question.
Trump administration attorneys argued in Monday’s filing that Ross’ “subjective deliberative process” was irrelevant as long as he “sincerely believed that reinstating a citizenship question on the census would aid” enforcement of the Voting Rights Act, the Chronicle reported.
Attorneys for California argued that the court should consider the rhetoric that President Donald Trump has voiced against undocumented immigrants.
According to the Chronicle, federal government lawyers argued that fears about the Trump administration shouldn’t affect the secretary’s decision.
“If individuals elect not to respond to the census because of fears about the ‘Trump administration’ sharing their data, or the ‘Muslim ban’ or other elements of the current political climate, then their non-response — and any resulting undercount — will not be redressed by revisiting the secretary’s decision,” the Department of Justice filing stated.
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