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GOP Attorneys General Support Citizenship Question on Census

Image: GOP Attorneys General Support Citizenship Question on Census
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Sunday, 15 April 2018 08:37 PM

A Trump administration plan to ask people if they are U.S. citizens during the 2020 census has prompted a legal uproar from Democratic state attorneys general, who argue it could drive down participation and lead to an inaccurate count.

Yet not a single Republican attorney general has sued — not even from states with large immigrant populations that stand to lose if a census undercount of immigrants affects the allotment of U.S. House seats and federal funding for states.

In fact, many GOP attorneys general had urged Trump's census team to add a citizenship question.

"We always are better off having a more accurate count of citizens versus non-citizens. I see no downside in this," said Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, vice chairman of the Republican Attorneys General Association.

The diverging views of top Republican and Democratic state attorneys highlight how even the most basic data collection decisions can quickly split along partisan lines amid the intense debate about immigration policies.

Concerns among immigrants have risen as President Donald Trump's administration has cracked down on so-called sanctuary jurisdictions, increased arrests by federal immigration officers, called the National Guard to the border with Mexico and sought to limit travel to the U.S. from certain predominantly Muslim countries.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced last month that the 2020 census distributed to every U.S. household will include a citizenship question for the first time since 1950. He said the question was needed in part to help the government enforce the Voting Rights Act, the 1965 law that was intended to protect the political representation of minority groups.

He said it will provide a more accurate tally of voting-eligible residents than is currently available from a smaller sampling survey that includes the citizenship question.

In a letter explaining his decision, Ross said the U.S. Census Bureau estimated that as many as 630,000 additional households might not respond if a citizenship question is included. Yet he acknowledged the administration did not know what the actual consequences might be because it hasn't tested the change.

The nation's only dress rehearsal for the 2020 census, currently taking place in Providence, Rhode Island, does not include the citizenship question on the survey forwarded to residents. Nevertheless, Ross determined the benefits of including the question outweigh any concerns.

The census, undertaken every 10 years, also is used to determine how much money to distribute to local communities through various federal programs.

Estimates of those living in the U.S. illegally range from 11 million to a little over 12 million people.

Census data is not shared with immigration enforcement authorities. Yet immigrant advocates believe a citizenship question could discourage even some who are lawfully present from responding, partly because of fears the government could track down relatives living in the U.S. illegally.

The letter from Republican state officials said a census citizenship question could help minority communities by allowing those drawing legislative districts to ensure there are enough voting-eligible citizens in a particular district for minorities to be able to elect a candidate of their choice under the federal Voting Rights Act.

Associated Press writer Bob Christie in Phoenix contributed to this report.

© Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

   
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A Trump administration plan to ask people if they are U.S. citizens during the 2020 census has prompted a legal uproar from Democratic state attorneys general, who argue it could drive down participation and lead to an inaccurate count.Yet not a single Republican attorney...
us, census, citizenship split
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2018-37-15
Sunday, 15 April 2018 08:37 PM
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