(The Nation) -- After months of preparation—and despite plenty of pushback—Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced Monday night that the 2020 Census will include a question about respondents’ immigration status. State attorneys general and immigration and civil-rights groups were quick to slam the move and, within hours of the announcement, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed a lawsuit challenging the decision.
The move will have profound consequences for US democracy. The Census, which happens only once every 10 years, is used to determine the allocation of $700 billion in federal grant money, apportion representatives in Congress, and determine how electoral boundaries are drawn and how many votes each state is given in the Electoral College. Critics have long warned that a question about people’s immigration status will depress participation and lead to inaccurate responses, both of which could warp the administration of these immensely consequential programs and institutions.
Still, Ross determined, the question is necessary for the enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. “The reinstatement of a citizenship question will not decrease the response rate of residents who already declined not to respond,” Ross wrote in a memo released Monday, brushing off concerns about lower participation. “And no one provided evidence that there are residents who would respond accurately to a decennial census that did not contain a citizenship question but would not respond if it did.”
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