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News from:
City Attorney Barbara J. Parker

Friday, May 4, 2018

Oakland joins California’s lawsuit to stop Trump administration’s unconstitutional decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census

Asking citizenship status will undercount California’s population thereby reducing the state’s Congressional representation and federal funding for critical services

OAKLAND, CA — City Attorney Barbara J. Parker today joined the State of California’s lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s unconstitutional decision to add a question about citizenship status to the 2020 census.  

State of California v. Wilbur L. Ross, Jr., U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Case No. 3:18-cv-01865

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed the lawsuit on March 26, 2018.  The amended complaint includes Los Angeles County and the cities of Oakland, Fremont, Stockton, Los Angeles and Long Beach as plaintiffs. The state of New York is leading a group of at least 18 states, the U.S. Conference of Mayors and other local jurisdictions in a separate lawsuit challenging the citizenship question.

“It is no secret that the Trump administration is dead set on reducing the voting power and federal funding for states like California and cities like Oakland whose residents overwhelmingly did not cast their votes for the current occupant of the White House,” Oakland City Attorney Barbara J. Parker said. “The addition of a citizenship question clearly is a pretext for achieving that goal.  Faced with the loss of the popular vote and a country that has an increasing number of immigrants and people of color, this outlaw administration is attempting to undercount and disenfranchise diverse communities like Oakland and California.”

The federal government is preparing to conduct the 2020 census to comply with the United States Constitution’s mandate of an accurate population count of individuals regardless of citizenship status every ten years.

The clear goal of the citizenship question is to discourage noncitizens and citizens’ family members from participating in the Census. The resulting undercount would detrimentally impact California by reducing the state’s Congressional representation and federal funding for disaster relief, infrastructure, public health, education, police, fire and other critical services.

“California’s fight to secure an accurate census of our nation’s vibrant and diverse population has just been bolstered by our cities and counties. We welcome their partnership and look forward to working together,” said Attorney General Becerra. “The Constitution requires that, every ten years, we count every person in our country, regardless of citizenship status. Together, we will see to it that this sacred responsibility is met by our federal government.” 

In December 2017, the U.S. Department of Justice asked the Census Bureau to include a question on citizenship in the 2020 census.  In March, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced that the census will include a citizenship question. The census has not included a citizenship question since 1950.

The addition of a citizenship question violates both the Constitution’s requirement for an “actual Enumeration” of all people and the Administrative Procedure Act’s prohibition against “arbitrary and capricious” agency action.

“This is not the first assault on our Constitution and our voting rights and it won’t be the last,” City Attorney Parker said. “The federal courts have already struck down blatant attempts to reduce the voting power of African Americans, such as laws that would shorten the time frame for voting, eliminate Sunday voting, reduce the number of polling places and gerrymander voting districts to disenfranchise voters of color.  The addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 census will freeze an inaccurate population count for the next decade, jeopardizing at least one of California’s seats in Congress, and by extension one vote in the electoral college. And the citizenship question will deprive California of federal funds to which it is entitled and which are critically needed.  Inclusion of a citizenship question on the census violates bedrock Constitutional principles of voting rights and representation.”

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