California Sues Trump Administration Over Citizenship Question On 2020 Census
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Just hours after the Trump administration announced that the 2020 census will include a question about citizenship, the state of California announced that it would sue to challenge that decision. Alex Padilla is California's secretary of state, and his office is leading the suit along with the state attorney general. Secretary Padilla, welcome.
ALEX PADILLA: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
SHAPIRO: Why do you think the U.S. census should not ask whether people are citizens?
PADILLA: Look; it's - our position here is based on historical fact. It's been more than 50 years since the Census Bureau has last asked about citizenship on the decennial census. Why? Because when they did in years past it served to discourage noncitizens from participating. The whole point of the census is to get an accurate count of the entire nation's population for a couple of important purposes. Yes, it does determine federal funding formulas for the next decade - transportation dollars, education dollars, housing dollars, et cetera. But more fundamentally, it is the census numbers that drive the reapportionment process and redistricting. So we're literally talking about California's voice in Congress and the level of representation being at stake.
SHAPIRO: You say there's a concern that noncitizens won't participate in the census. Isn't there some value, though, in knowing the number of noncitizens in the country?
PADILLA: Right. So here's the whole truth. The decennial census is only one of a number of surveys conducted by the Census Bureau and the Department of Commerce. Other surveys that happen, you know, between the every 10 years decennial census do capture a variety of data points, a variety of information that can and do inform public policy at the federal and the state and at the local level. But the decennial census specifically has a unique role in determining, again, not just federal funding formulas for the next decade but being the data that supports the reapportionment process as well as redistricting.
SHAPIRO: Do you think the Census Bureau should strike any question that could conceivably alienate people from responding? Or is there something uniquely insidious about a citizenship question?
PADILLA: Look; I think the Census Bureau has historically done a good job of testing not just what questions to include in the census but how to ask those questions in a way that gleans helpful, constructive data from the census but does not serve to discourage or intimidate people from participating in the census. And they should stick to those principles. They should stick to those policies.
SHAPIRO: You argue that this is an unconstitutional question. But as you've mentioned, it was on the census until 1950. So how is it unconstitutional?
PADILLA: Well, again, the Constitution and federal law is very clear. The purpose of the census is to get a fair and accurate population count in the United States of America. And that includes noncitizens. You know, morally speaking, noncitizens work, pay taxes, contribute to our economy, serve admirably in the military and are a vital part of American society. They deserve to be counted in the census, not intimidated from participating in it.
SHAPIRO: If this question remains on the census, what's your advice to people in California about how to fill it out?
PADILLA: Look; regardless of what happens, we will do everything in our power to ensure as a complete and accurate count of Californians as possible. But until the final step is taken, we will fight this decision tooth and nail in an effort to have the question not appear on the 2020 census.
SHAPIRO: Secretary Padilla, thanks for joining us today.
PADILLA: Thank you.
SHAPIRO: Alex Padilla is California's secretary of state, and he is suing the Trump administration over the decision to include a question about citizenship in the 2020 census.
[POST-BROADCAST CLARIFICATION: In this story, we said 1950 was the last time a citizenship question was asked for the U.S. census. It would have been more accurate to say the 1950 census was the last time a question about citizenship was among the census questions for all households, although the question was asked only of people born outside the United States. In some later censuses, a sample of households were asked a citizenship question.]
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Clarification May 21, 2019
In this story, we said 1950 was the last time a citizenship question was asked for the U.S. census. It would have been more accurate to say the 1950 census was the last time a question about citizenship was among the census questions for all households, although the question was asked only of people born outside the United States. In some later censuses, a sample of households were asked a citizenship question.