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'Sabotage' of Democracy as Trump Adds Citizenship Question to 2020 Census

"This administration is now using the census as a weapon against immigrants."

"This is an attempt to racially rig the census," argued Common Cause president Karen Hobert Flynn in a statement after the move was made public in a late-night press release by the Commerce Department. (Photo: Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images)

In a move denounced by immigrant rights advocates and legal experts as an effort to "undercount communities of color" that could have an enormous impact on the drawing of congressional districts, the Trump administration announced late Monday that the 2020 Census will ask respondents whether or not they are U.S. citizens.

"A question about U.S. citizenship on the 2020 census will massively depress responses from immigrants and sabotage the entire census. This is huge crisis for democracy."
—Ari Berman, Mother Jones

"This is an attempt to racially rig the census," argued Common Cause president Karen Hobert Flynn in a statement after the move was made public in a late-night press release by the Commerce Department. "An accurate census is essential in the redrawing of our congressional and legislative districts and budgeting decisions that impact our schools, hospitals, roads, and veterans."

Shortly after the decision to include a citizenship question on the 2020 Census was announced, California Attorney General Xavier Beccera joined civil rights advocates in condemning the move and filed suit against the Trump administration, arguing that inclusion of the question is "not just a bad idea—it is illegal."

"The census numbers provide the backbone for planning how our communities can grow and thrive in the coming decade," Becerra said in a statement on Monday. "What the Trump administration is requesting is not just alarming, it is an unconstitutional attempt to discourage an accurate census count."

Becerra's suit is expected to be just the first of many legal challenges to come.

As Common Dreams reported in January, census researchers have warned that there is already widespread fear among immigrants that any information they provide to the government will be used by the Trump administration to arrest and deport them.

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While the Commerce Department insisted in its announcement that the citizenship question—which was removed from the census in 1950—is meant to "help enforce the Voting Rights Act (VRA)," experts quickly dismissed this justification as a "farce," given the Trump administration's systemic and ongoing attack on voting rights nationwide.

Trump's Justice Department "hasn't filed single lawsuit to enforce Voting Rights Act" and is backing efforts by states to impose racist voter ID laws, Ari Berman of Mother Jones noted in a series of tweets on Monday.

"A question about U.S. citizenship on [the] 2020 census will massively depress responses from immigrants and sabotage the entire census," Berman concluded. "This is huge crisis for democracy."

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