The decision aims to help enforce the Voting Rights Act, the Commerce Department said on March 26, prompting California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to announce the lawsuit against the Trump administration in a bid to block the move.
The US Department of Commerce, which oversees the Census Bureau, said late on Monday it would bring back the citizenship question, in defiance of warnings that doing so would deter millions of people from participating in the count.
The U.S. Department of Justice had requested that the U.S. Commerce Department add a question on citizenship to the 2020 census in order to get more accurate data on citizen voting age population so government can better detect violations of minority voting rights. That question is now included on the American Community Survey, which offers a more detailed read on the state of the US population and replaced a different long-form questionnaire in the 2010 census.
The Justice Department said in a statement it was important to restore the use of a citizenship question in the 10-year census because it's used for redistricting purposes and the yearly survey is not the most appropriate data to use for that objective.
It is used to determine the allocation to states of seats in the US.House of Representatives and to distribute billions of dollars in federal funds to local communities.
The Trump administration has provoked threats of lawsuits and a backlash from senior Democrats after deciding to reinstate a controversial question about citizenship status in the next U.S. census.
Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin, a Democrat, told AP on Tuesday that he expected his state would also join in a lawsuit.
The move invited immediate backlash from Congressional lawmakers, mayors and civil rights activists, who said that the move was created to undercount immigrants and minorities, the USA Today reported.
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Resistance to answering census questions has grown in recent years as some Americans have deemed the survey too intrusive, and have said the Constitution's only requirement is for a count, not an answer to myriad further personal detail inquiries that appear on the decennial census.
In a statement, the Commerce Department pointed to previous census questions as justification for the shift.
A coalition of state attorneys general urged the department last month to not add such a question, saying it could lower participation among immigrants and cause a population undercount. The move prompted criticism from Democrats and immigration groups and a promise by the California attorney general to oppose it in the courts.
Democratic lawmakers had been bracing for the decision, making a point to question Ross during congressional hearings.
Citizenship is already asked on the Census's American Community Survey, the Current Population Survey and the Survey of Income and Program Participation.
"The President wants the 2020 United States Census to ask people whether or not they are citizens".
This Administration is now using the census as a weapon against immigrants. Since then, the question has only been included on the "long-form" survey, a survey that is sent to a smaller sample of people to collect demographic data on the population.