States, cities sue US over census citizenship question


NEW YORK (AP) — Seventeen states, the District of Columbia and six cities sued the U.S. government today, saying the addition of a citizenship question to the census form is unconstitutional.

The Trump administration's decision to ask people about their citizenship has set off worries among Democrats that immigrants will dodge the survey altogether, diluting political representation for states that tend to vote Democratic and robbing many communities of federal dollars.

Supporters of the plan for the 2020 census argue that enforcing voting rights requires more data on the voting-age population of citizens than current surveys are providing. It would be the first time in 70 years that the government uses the census form sent to every household to ask people to specify whether they are U.S. citizens.

New York Attorney General Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, a Democrat who announced the new lawsuit in Manhattan federal court, said the plans would have a "devastating effect on New York, where we have millions of immigrants."

"It's unlawful. It's unfair," Schneiderman said at a news conference. He added that it would end a longstanding bipartisan effort to have the Bureau of the Census conduct a full and fair count of the population, including citizens and non-citizens.

The Census Bureau hasn't included a citizenship question in its survey of all U.S. households since 1950, well before passage of a 1965 law meant to ensure minority groups are fully represented in the once-a-decade count.

The lawsuit, which also included the bipartisan U.S. Conference of Mayors as a plaintiff, said adding the citizenship question was arbitrary and will "fatally undermine the accuracy of the population count." It asked for a ruling that the citizenship demand is unauthorized and unconstitutional.

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