The Attorney General of California, former U.S. Rep. Xavier Becerra (D), stands opposed to a request by the Trump administration to add a citizenship question to the questionnaire to be distributed as part of the 2020 United States census. In a letter to U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who oversees the Census Bureau, Becerra and 19 fellow Attorneys General asserted that adding a citizenship question would violate the bureau’s “obligations under the Constitution, the Administrative Procedure Act, and potentially other federal statutes.”
The letter expresses concern that non-citizens may be discouraged from participating in the Census, thus “resulting in an undercount that would cost California our fair representation in Congress and billions in federal funding over the next decade. As the largest and most diverse state in the nation, California has a lot on the line and only one chance to get it right. We will not sit idly by while this administration undermines yet another pillar of our democracy.”
According to the Policy Policy Institute of California, California was home to between 2.35 and 2.6 million illegal immigrants in 2014. Almost 25 percent of the total illegal aliens present in the United States reside in California, wherein they constitute more than 6 percent of the Golden State’s population. Following a slight decline after 2007, PPIC estimated that the population of illegal aliens stood at 11 million in 2016.
In California, the counties with the highest number of illegal immigrants were: Alameda, Contra Costa, Frsno, Kern, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, and Santa Clara.
A citizenship question has not been included on the census questionnaire since 1950. According to the letter co-authored by Becerra, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D), and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey (D), the authors disagree with the assertion by the DOJ that a citizenship question would be “critical to the Department’s enforcement of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.”
“What the Trump Administration is requesting is not just alarming, it is illegal. The Constitution requires that, every 10 years, we accurately count every person in our country, regardless of citizenship status. This is a sacred responsibility. It determines how many Congressional seats each state receives and how billions of dollars in federal funds are distributed. At the local level, it should also produce an accurate population count that our communities can rely on to identify the need for critical services such as disaster relief, infrastructure, public health, and police and fire protection,” said Becerra, according to an official release.
Said Becerra, “The California Department of Justice is putting President Trump on notice: if a citizenship question is added to the 2020 U.S. Census Bureau questionnaire, we are prepared to take any and all necessary legal action to protect a full and accurate Census. This is clearly an attempt to bully and discourage our immigrant communities from participating in the 2020 Census count. We also call on Congress to fully and immediately fund preparations for the 2020 Census. California simply has too much to lose for us to allow the Trump Administration to botch this important decennial obligation.”
“The Trump Administration has underfunded, understaffed and under-tested the Census. Now they want to further undermine this critical population count by adding a question about citizenship to the decennial survey," said Secretary of State Alex Padilla. "The inclusion of a citizenship question would discourage non-citizens from participating in the Census resulting in an undercount that would cost California our fair representation in Congress and billions in federal funding over the next decade. As the largest and most diverse state in the nation, California has a lot on the line and only one chance to get it right. We will not sit idly by while this administration undermines yet another pillar of our democracy.”
The letter makes four points:
The U.S. Constitution requires “counting the whole number of persons in each State.” Adding a citizenship question would fatally undermine the accuracy of the 2020 Census and reduce response rates, especially among immigrant and noncitizen communities;
This threat to the accuracy of the 2020 Census is magnified by the extreme lateness of the U.S. Department of Justice’s proposal — the U.S. Census Bureau must meet a statutory deadline of March 31, 2018, less than two months away, to submit its final questionnaire to Congress;
The states would be profoundly harmed by an inaccurate 2020 Census, since it could result in an incorrect calculation of the number of Representatives to which each state is entitled, in violation of the Census Clause of the Constitution, and jeopardize critical federal funding that states depend on; and
Adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census would hamper — not advance, as the U.S. Department of Justice purports — the goals of the Voting Rights Act. Because the U.S. Justice Department’s request is unsupported by its stated reason, adding a citizenship question would be arbitrary and capricious under the Administrative Procedure Act.
The co-signers of the letter are the Attorneys General of: Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, and the Governor of the State of Colorado.