Advocates say the change is simple common sense—but critics say it doesn't make a lot of sense to hold a census that won't accurately count the population. The Commerce Department has confirmed that the 2020 census will include a question about citizenship, a move that opponents warn will cause undocumented immigrants not to fill in the form, leading to a major undercount in states including Texas and California, NBC reports. The Commerce Department says the question is nothing new, noting that there was a question about citizenship on every decennial census from 1820 to 1950. The census—which is meant to count the entire population, citizens or not—is used to determine federal funding levels and representation in Congress, among other things.
"The President wants the 2020 United States Census to ask people whether or not they are citizens," the Trump campaign said in email to supporters last week, per CNN. "In another era, this would be COMMON SENSE... but 19 attorneys general said they will fight the President if he dares to ask people if they are citizens." The attorneys general in opposition include California's Xavier Becerra. In an op-ed at the San Francisco Chronicle, he writes that the move "would discourage noncitizens and their citizen family members from responding to the census, resulting in a less accurate population count." This would not only reduce funding for public services, it would violate the Constitution's requirement for an "actual enumeration" of the population, he writes.