New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed a lawsuit Tuesday morning in an attempt to block the Trump administration from asking about citizenship status on the 2020 census.
Federal officials announced in March that a question about citizenship status will be included in the upcoming census as a way to enforce the Voting Rights Act.
Schneiderman is leading a coalition of 18 total attorneys general, representing Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, North Carolina and more, in the effort to stop the administration from demanding such citizenship information.
The lawsuit deems the move to add a citizenship question as an “unconstitutional and arbitrary decision.”
The point of the census, the lawsuit noted, is to determine “the whole number of persons in each state,” but inquiring about citizenship status, these AGs said, would reduce participation among immigrants.
“One of the federal government’s most solemn obligations is a fair and accurate count of all people in the country, citizen and non-citizen alike,” Schneiderman said in a statement. He said that this requirement has been respected for decades, until now.
“With immigrant communities already living in fear, demanding citizenship status would drive them into the shadows,” he added, “leading to a major undercount that threatens billions in federal funding for New York and our fair representation in Congress and the Electoral College.”
The Census Bureau’s own research, Schneiderman noted, shows that demanding citizenship status details will “inevitably jeopardize the overall accuracy of the population count.”
With an inaccurate census turnout, states could potentially lose billions of dollars in federal funds that cover things like education, infrastructure, Medicaid and more.
The Census Bureau also previously rejected the addition of a citizenship question in 1980. Tuesday’s lawsuit, filed in Manhattan federal court, argued that the Trump administration’s decision is “inconsistent” with the bureau’s own constitutional obligation.