Are you a U.S. citizen, or not?
That important new question will now be on the upcoming 2020 census.
The U.S. Commerce Department announced the change late last night, and it prompted a quick response from California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.
"California simply has too much to lose for us to allow the Trump Administration to botch this important decennial obligation," he said in a statement.
His office filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration, arguing that the addition of such a question is a violation of the U.S. Constitution. (Take Two reached out to Becerra's office for comment, but did not hear back.)
Political experts say the question, if left in, could have big repercussions for California.
"The concern is that many households that have unauthorized immigrants might choose not to answer the census," said Louis DeSipio, political science professor at UC Irvine, "because they'd be fearful of the Commerce Department sharing that individual information with other government agencies including, Homeland Security."
And if people don't participate in the census, it could lead to an undercount.
"The census is supposed to be a complete count of the people," said DeSipio. "If the 2020 census comes to be remembered as a bad census, the implications go on for decades."
Here are some other key takeaways to know about the addition of this question:
- Congressional seats can be lost in critical areas — "If there were to be a serious undercount of immigrant communities," said DeSipio, "that would mean that California would lose representation – and urban areas, in general, would lose representation."
- Urban areas are the big losers here — "Democrats tend to live in urban areas. The effect would be to reduce the accuracy of the census, and the people who will be less likely to be counted are immigrants and their U.S. citizen family members."
- You're under no obligation to answer the citizenship question — "The Census Bureau is accustomed to people not answering some of the questions on the census, and they do what's called imputation. They make a reasoned guess."
- The Commerce Department said it added the question because the Justice Department asked it to. The Justice Department argues that by adding the question, it'll be able to fully enforce the Voting Rights Act.