By Foon Rhee
In its ongoing legal war with the Trump administration, California can chalk up another win.
This week, a federal judge blocked plans to add a question on citizenship status to the 2020 Census. California officials say that the question would worsen the undercount, especially of immigrants and ethnic minorities, potentially costing the state hundreds of millions of dollars in federal money and even one of its 53 seats in the U.S. House.
The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office says that the undercount in the 1990 Census was about 835,000; that meant the state added one fewer congressional seat than it should have and lost $200 million a year. The 2000 and 2010 counts were more accurate, the LAO says.
“Justice has prevailed for each and every Californian who should raise their hands to be counted in the 2020 Census without being discouraged by a citizenship question,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement responding to the ruling. “We will ardently defend this important judgment to safeguard fairness in funding and representation for California and its local communities.”
Becerra filed the lawsuit in March 2018, along with Los Angeles County, the Los Angeles Unified School District and the cities of Fremont, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oakland and Stockton.
In his ruling released March 6, U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg said that asking “Is this person a citizen of the United States?” was unconstitutional because it stops the government from carrying out its duty to count every person living in the U.S. every 10 years.
“In short, the inclusion of the citizenship question on the 2020 Census threatens the very foundation of our democratic system—and does so based on a self-defeating rationale,” Seeborg wrote.
The ruling is the second by a federal judge blocking the citizenship question. The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the Trump administration’s appeal of that ruling on April 23.