The Trump administration is seeking to bring back a biased census question last used in 1950 to ask about citizenship status of respondents, a move that could shortchange California billions in funding. But California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is leading an effort to fight back.
“What the Trump Administration is requesting is not just alarming, it is illegal,” said Becerra. “The Constitution requires that, every 10 years, we accurately count every person in our country, regardless of citizenship status. This is a sacred responsibility.”
California has the nation’s largest immigrant population, some 10.7 million immigrants in 2015, making up 27.3 percent of the state’s population, according to the American Immigration Council. Undercounting immigrants would give a false impression that fewer people live in California than actually do.
Becerra is co-leading the effort with 19 attorneys general to ask the Commerce Department, which oversees the Census Bureau, to drop the citizenship question from the 2020 plans.
The group sent a letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross explaining the dangerous impact of the citizenship question, saying, “Adding a citizenship question — especially at such a late date in the 2020 Census planning process — would significantly depress participation, causing a population undercount that would disproportionately harm states and cities with large immigrant communities.”
California Secretary of State Alex Padilla noted the huge economic impact, stating, “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.”
Trump, with the help of California Republicans, already hurt California taxpayers through the recent tax bill, which disproportionately impacts Californians. A skewed census that undercounts immigrants is yet another policy that could hurt California.
Beyond issues with accurate representation in Congress and accurate federal funding, undercounting immigrants would have a detrimental impact on communities.
“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,” Becerra said.
Becerra is fighting a Trump administration with a long history of antipathy toward immigrant communities. Trump kicked off his presidential campaign alleging that Mexican immigrants were rapists, and more recently referred to Haiti and African countries as “s—hole countries.” His divisive State of the Union speech angered many in California’s Democratic congressional delegation.
In 2017, Trump abruptly announced the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, which provided legal protections for those who were brought to the United States as children, many knowing no other home. President Obama created DACA in 2012 after immigration reform efforts, which passed the Senate, failed to make progress in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
Becerra says that he will continue to fight the administration’s attempts to “bully and discourage our immigrant communities from participating in the 2020 Census count.” He notes that California is prepared to “take any and all necessary legal action to protect a full and accurate Census.”