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Oregon, Washington Join Challenge To Citizenship Question On 2020 Census

<p>In this July 13, 2016, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum poses for a photo at her office in Portland, Oregon.</p>

Don Ryan

In this July 13, 2016, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum poses for a photo at her office in Portland, Oregon.

Oregon and Washington’s attorneys general are joining a multi-state lawsuit opposing the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 decennial census.

The lawsuit, led by New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, charges that by including the question about citizenship, the Trump administration violates the 14th Amendment and the Enumeration Clauseof the U.S. Constitution. That clause requires the census identify every person in the United States.

The coalition of state attorneys general says that includes people who are undocumented. They argue that asking about citizenship on the census would undermine the goal of counting every person because it would discourage people from participating.

“The Census Bureau’s own research reveals asking people about their citizenship status could significantly undermine its constitutional mandate: an accurate count of everyone in the United States, regardless of immigration status," saidWashington Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

"If Washington state’s large immigrant population isn’t accurately counted, the impact on our congressional representation and billions of dollars in federal funds our state receives could be jeopardized."

The U.S. Commerce Department announced earlier this week that it will ask about citizenship in the 2020 census at the request of the Justice Department. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the Justice Department requested the question be added in order to help determine possible violations of the Voting Rights Act and to help enforce the law.

In February, attorneys general wrote to Rossopposing the DOJ's request to add the citizenship question, arguing the prospect of a population undercount would have profound implications on how states are represented and how much they get in federal funds.

"An accurate census is a bedrock of our democracy," said Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum. "There is simply no requirement or need for a citizenship question on the census —but it is consistent with the Trump administration’s poor behavior when it comes to threatening to cut off federal funds to the states and marginalizing tax-paying, contributing residents of our communities."

Copyright 2018 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Ericka Cruz Guevarra