Fri | Dec 14, 2018

GOP attorneys general support citizenship question on census

Published:Monday | April 16, 2018 | 12:00 AM
This March 23, 2018 file photo shows an envelope containing a 2018 census letter mailed to a resident in Providence, Rhode Island, as part of the nation’s only test run of the 2020 census.

A Trump administration plan to ask people if they are United States citizens during the 2020 census has prompted a legal uproar from Democratic state attorneys general, who argue it could drive down participation and lead to an inaccurate count.

Yet, not a single Republican attorney general has sued - not even from states with large immigrant populations that stand to lose if a census undercount of immigrants affects the allotment of US House seats and federal funding for states.

In fact, many GOP attorneys general had urged Trump's census team to add a citizenship question.

"We always are better off having a more accurate count of citizens versus non-citizens. I see no downside in this," said Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, vice-chairman of the Republican Attorneys General Association.

The diverging views of top Republican and Democratic state attorneys highlight how even the most basic data-collection decisions can quickly split along partisan lines amid the intense debate about immigration policies.

Concerns among immigrants have risen as President Donald Trump's administration has cracked down on so-called sanctuary jurisdictions, increased arrests by federal immigration officers, called the National Guard to the border with Mexico, and sought to limit travel to the US from certain predominantly Muslim countries.

 

VOTING RIGHTS ACT

 

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced last month that the 2020 census distributed to every US household will include a citizenship question for the first time since 1950. He said the question was needed, in part to help the government enforce the Voting Rights Act, the 1965 law that was intended to protect the political representation of minority groups.

He said it will provide a more accurate tally of voting-eligible residents than is currently available from a smaller sampling survey that includes the citizenship question.

In a letter explaining his decision, Ross said the US Census Bureau estimated that as many as 630,000 additional households might not respond if a citizenship question is included. Yet, he acknowledged the administration did not know what the actual consequences might be because it hasn't tested the change.