New York one of 12 states planning to sue Trump administration over adding citizenship question to census

Congresswoman Grace Meng questions Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on the 2020 Census.
Courtesy of Meng’s office
By Gina Martinez

U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) blasted the Trump administration’s decision to include a question regarding citizenship on the 2020 US Census.

The administration’s action was made following a request by the Justice Department, which suggested that the question be reinstated in an attempt to better enforce the Voting Rights Act.

“The decision to add this question without any testing at this late stage is deeply troubling and reckless,” Meng said. “Asking respondents if they are citizens will likely decrease response rates in immigrant communities, and as a result produce an inaccurate and incomplete count that will impact the distribution of federal resources, and the number of Congressional districts that each state receives.”

At least 12 states — including New York — announced their intention to sue the Trump administration in an effort to block the decision to add the citizenship question on the grounds that it violates the Constitution and would lead to fewer Americans participating in the census.

“New York City is joining Attorney General Schneiderman’s lawsuit to stop President Trump from this unprecedented move to politicize the census,” Mayor de Blasio said Tuesday. “A fair and accurate 2020 count is constitutionally mandated to ensure political power and resources remain with the people – where they belong. President Trump’s decision puts our amazing city of immigrants in jeopardy and threatens federal funding for infrastructure, health care and public safety in New York.”

Queens is the nation’s most ethnically diverse county, where nearly half of the residents are foreign-born.

Meng said that she believes immigrants may choose to not take part in the survey due to the inclusion of the question.

“Many immigrants who are fearful of deportation under the current administration will simply choose to not participate in the census out of fear that the information they provide will be used against them,” she said.

Meng questioned and expressed concerns to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross during an Appropriations Subcommittee hearing March 20, reaffirming her opposition to the Justice Department’s request to add a citizenship question to the census.

“But unfortunately, the secretary decided to add this misguided question. I am deeply disappointed with Secretary Ross, and I will now look to introduce legislation to stop this question from being included on the census,” she said.

The Census Bureau is required to provide Congress with the final 2020 census questions by March 31.

During the hearing, Ross said he had yet to make a decision on whether or not to include the question of citizenship. Meng called it “outrageous and irresponsible” that Ross had no answer on whether or not a citizenship question would be included. She and Rep. José Serrano (D-NY) sent a letter to the secretary in January urging him to reject the proposal.

At the hearing, Meng said Ross failed to adequately answer her questions about the costs associated with adding such a question, and whether or not it would improve accuracy.

“Adding a question about citizenship status would be reckless and misguided,” Meng said. “It would lower response rates from those in immigrant communities, make the census more expensive, and add further complications to an already underfunded and under-prepared Census Bureau. There is too much at stake to risk an inaccurate count. Secretary Ross must make a final decision, and that decision must be to reject any plan that would ask about citizenship on the 2020 census.”

The national census, completed every 10 years, is the mechanism by which funding for federal programs is allocated and congressional seats are apportioned. Meng said issues with undercounting and inaccurate reporting from the previous censuses in 2010 and 2000 have cost New York billions of dollars in funding for community programs, as well as seats in Congress. The count is mandated in Article I, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution.

Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, said the idea of adding a citizenship question to the Census is a thinly veiled attempt to depress immigrant census turnout.

“Message to the Administration: we are watching you, and with the help of Congressional allies like Grace Meng, we will fight on every front together with the New York Counts 2020 coalition to ensure that every New Yorker is fully counted in the 2020 Census.” Choi said.

Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmartinez@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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