Attorney General Hector Balderas says a controversial new question about citizenship on the U.S. Census questionnaire is illegal. Balderas joined a coalition of state attorneys general who filed a lawsuit to stop it.
The attorneys general, led by New York AG Eric Schneiderman, along with the U.S. Conference of Mayors sued in federal court today, saying the question would result in an illegal undercount of the population. The fear is that the question would cause an undercounting of those that fear the federal government would use the information to arrest or even deport non-citizens. The coalition argues the U.S. Constitution calls a count to determine “the whole number of persons in each state”—and has nothing to do with a person’s legal status.
The decennial census determines not only populations for redistricting, but also for determining federal aid for communities and states.
“New Mexico will be the state hardest hit by this unconstitutional attempt to suppress participation in the census, and we cannot afford to lose billions of dollars in medicaid and other federal funds that will result,” according to a statement from Balderas. “Immigration status is irrelevant to the census, and I will aggressively fight against this attempt to intimidate New Mexican families.”
Earlier, ProPublica reported that Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross overruled career employees at the Census Bureau to include the citizenship question.
Citizenship questions have appeared on a different, longer survey of households, but not on the decennial census since 1950.
The state of California already filed a federal lawsuit last month to block the use of the question on the census. This new lawsuit includes 17 states, the District of Columbia, six major cities and the U.S. Conference of Mayors.