On Monday night, California’s attorney general filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration over its plans to ask about citizenship status in the 2020 US Census, claiming that the action “will directly impede” the ability to acquire an accurate population count.
Jorge Barón, the executive director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, told Radio Sputnik that the administration’s decision is just another unconstitutional attempt to undercount immigrants.
On Monday night, the US Commerce Department said that it would bring back the citizenship question on the 2020 Census to enforce the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The last time the citizenship question was part of the census was in 1950.
In a statement, the Commerce Department said that the US Department of Justice seeks “to provide census citizenship voting age populations, or CVAP, data that is not currently available from government surveys.”
“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 [Wilbur] 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,” the statement added, CNBC added.
During a Tuesday press conference, Xavier Becerra, California’s attorney general, announced that the move was “another reckless decision” by the Trump administration that “threatens not just immigrant families in our state but all of us in the state of California.”
In fact, California state officials argue that discounting immigrants in the next census could force the nation’s most populous state to lose a congressional seat.
“I think this is the furthest the Trump administration has taken it,” Barón told Radio Sputnik’s Loud & Clear.
“They’re saying that immigrants don’t count. Literally. They are going to try to create a system where immigrants literally don’t count. This is going to have tremendous repercussions for immigrants themselves but also for all of us that live in states with large immigrant populations. It’s something that we should all be concerned about,” Barón told hosts John Kiriakou and Walter Smolarek.
“This is simply a scare tactic by the administration in order to undermine representation of people in states with larger immigrant populations,” he added.
“Beyond the deportation situation, other moves like the Muslim travel ban have sent a signal to a lot of people that they are second-class citizens because they can’t petition for their family members who are from Somalia or Iran, for example,” Barón noted.
The California lawsuit, which has been filed against the Commerce Department, claims that asking about citizenship on the census is both unconstitutional and a violation of federal laws like the Administrative Procedure Action, which bans “arbitrary and capricious” agency moves.
The lawsuit states that California has “more foreign-born residents and non-citizens than any other state” and also has “the highest number of US-born citizens who live with at least one undocumented family member.”
“They do have a case — it is based on the argument that adding this question so late in the day will basically destroy the usability of the census,” Nate Persily, a professor of law at Stanford Law school, told CNBC recently.
“This latest move by the Trump administration to threaten California is not just a bad idea, it’s against the law,” Becerra told reporters Tuesday. “We’re going to defend every one of our rights to make sure that every one of our people who has worked hard to make California the sixth-largest economy in the world is counted.”
“Given the way this administration has attacked immigrants, you can understand why immigrant families would be afraid to fill out the census questionnaire,” Becerra added.
“There needs to be fights at multiple levels,” Barón agreed, while talking to Radio Sputnik.
“We have to continue to call on Congress to take action. They have the ability to overturn this decision. We also have to be prepared for legal challenges. We are definitely going to have to push back against this issue with threatens representation in our democracy. It is just one more egregious tool by the Trump administration so that immigrants and people of color have less voice in the immigration process. The administration is attempting to heighten the political power of a particular segment of the population while reducing the power of others.”
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is also leading a coalition of 19 state attorneys general who oppose the citizenship question and plan to file another lawsuit against the Trump administration.
Democratic Representative Grace Meng of New York also said Tuesday that she will initiate legislation to block the administration’s decision.
“The decision to add this question without any testing at this late stage is deeply troubling and reckless,” she said in a statement.