A California district court has ruled against the inclusion of a citizenship question on the 2020 census, claiming it would threaten “the very foundation of our democratic system,” and a large chunk of the state’s federal funding.
The ruling echoes a decision made in New York earlier, in which a judge also found that asking people whether they are US citizens violates federal law.
California Northern District Judge Richard Seeborg ruled that “including the citizenship question on the 2020 census is fundamentally counterproductive to the goal of obtaining accurate citizenship data about the public.”
The court found the question to be a violation of the Enumeration Clause of the Constitution, which mandates a census every 10 years in order to correctly assign a number of representatives to each state based on population.
Citing “unrefuted evidence” that including a citizenship question would result in a dramatic undercounting of Latino and non-citizen populations, Seeborg explained that it would be particularly devastating to California, which is home to a disproportionately large percentage of non-citizen immigrants. Since census responses are used to apportion federal funds as well as congressional representation, California would stand to lose billions of dollars in federal funds and potentially as many as three seats in the House – as well as three electoral votes – if the citizenship question was included.
Seeborg didn’t explain how non-citizens are entitled to representation in the US government, given that they are not in fact citizens.
California’s Northern District has been clashing with the Trump administration on most of its legislative agenda related to immigration, from limiting newcomers from Muslim-majority countries to limiting crossings at the southern border. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is currently leading a 16-state lawsuit against the Trump administration over the president’s declaration of an emergency at the Mexican border.
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