"Undercounting the sizeable number of Californian non-citizens and their citizen relatives will imperil the State's fair share of congressional seats and Electoral College electors and will cost the State billions in federal funding over the next decade", the attorney general's lawsuit says. University of California, Berkeley professor and demographer Kenneth W. Yachter notes that the data it offers could help a school board decide whether or not an additional elementary school needs to be built in a particular district.
She said the administration chose to reinstate the question because it has "provided data that's necessary for the Department of Justice to protect voters, and specifically to help us better comply with the Voting Rights Act, which is something that's important and part of this process". "Secretary Ross determined that obtaining complete and accurate information to meet this legitimate government objective outweighed the limited potential adverse impacts".
Last month, a coalition of state attorneys general urged the commerce department not to add such a question, saying it could lower participation among immigrants and cause a population undercount. Earlier today, Attorney General Becerra - along with Secretary of State Alex Padilla - published an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle highlighting how high the stakes are for California. He said the question asking residents about their citizenship status will create fear and mistrust in immigrant communities and could skew census results if some immigrants choose not to participate.
The Justice Department recently announced it was suing California over state and city laws the federal government has said extend protections to people living in the country illegally in so-called "sanctuary cities".
After Monday's announcement the Democratic House leader, Nancy Pelosi, condemned the idea.
Immigrant communities overwhelmingly vote Democrat, and several party representatives and senators took to Twitter to voice support for Becerra's suit. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, praised Ross for announcing the decision to include a citizenship question, calling it a "reasonable, common sense addition to the census".More news: Lexington Youth Lend Their Voices To Anti-Gun Violence March
Some Republican lawmakers hailed the decision. With the Trump administration adding the question about USA citizenship status to the census, the backlash has been swift.
Citizenship questions have appeared on the census in the past and are included on more frequent population surveys that are administered by the Census Bureau. However, Ross said the commerce department was unable to determine how the citizen question would affect responsiveness.
"Looking at the Census Bureau's monthly Current Population Surveys shows no drop in the number of people identified as foreign-born between January 2014 and January of 2018", said Steven Camarota, research director at the Center for Immigration Studies. The citizenship data help agencies and policymakers evaluate immigration policy and understand how different immigrant groups are assimilated. He said this would allow the government to get a large amount of self-reported data but also determine if non-citizens misreported themselves as citizens - which happened around 30 percent of the time on a prior federal survey. In December, the Justice Department requested that the Census Bureau reinstate the question in the 2020 census.
"The Census is supposed to count everyone", Healey said in a statement.
Information is only released publicly in the aggregate, although the government has the details.
As early as September of a year ago, months before the announcement that the question was a possibility, Census researchers spoke up about exactly these concerns. In 2010, the Obama administration offered assurances that the census data would not be used for immigration purposes.