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Census citizenship question will spark fear in immigrants, Schneiderman says

New York has filed a lawsuit to block the "unconstitutional and arbitrary decision" to include the question.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced a suit Tuesday

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced a suit Tuesday that seeks to block a question on citizenship from the 2020 Census. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Drew Angerer

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman formally announced a lawsuit Tuesday morning that aims to block the Trump administration’s citizenship question on the 2020 Census.

Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have joined New York State, city and other municipalities in filing the suit Tuesday against President Donald Trump and the Department of Commerce over the decision to include a citizenship question on the 2020 Census.

Schneiderman, whose office has sued the administration over the environment and travel ban among other issues, said the citizenship question is part of Trump’s ongoing efforts to undermine immigrant rights and will have long-term negative effects for all citizens.

“We argue with substantial evidence this is done to punish places like New York, where we welcome immigrants,” he said.

The suit argues that including the citizenship question was an arbitrary and capricious decision of the federal government. Moreover, the suit alleges that the move violates the enumerated powers granted to Congress in the Constitution.

“The Census Bureau’s constitutional obligation to pursue an accurate enumeration requires that the Census Bureau avoid unnecessarily deterring participation in the decennial census,” the suit claims.

The Census Bureau reiterated that the citizenship question, which hasn’t been on the survey since 1950, will help to enforce the Voting Rights Act. A representative for the U.S. Department of Commerce, which approved the question, said the case is without merit.

“We look forward to prevailing in court and continuing to work with the Census Bureau to conduct a complete and accurate 2020 census,” the representative said.

Schneiderman said that, for years, Census officials have struck down citizenship questions because they would lead to an undercount and result in less state funding, resources and House members. The suit noted that the last count, in 2010, failed to include more than 1.5 million minorities.

Schneiderman, flanked by several New York elected officials, such as Reps. Jerry Nadler, Nydia Velazquez and Carolyn Maloney at a news conference in Manhattan, said including the question would intimidate an already embattled immigrant community

“The prospect of someone saying ‘I’m from the Trump administration,’ and asking for citizenship status will invoke fear,” he said.

California’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra asked the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California to issue a preliminary injunction last week.

Schneiderman said he was willing to take the case to the Supreme Court if need be, and was confident that the Census question would not hold up against the Constitution.

“Our coalition is as strong as it needs to be and we are getting more support,” he said.

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