Census question on citizenship sparks outrage among New Jersey leaders

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TRENTON -

Some of New Jersey’s leaders have expressed outrage over a question that will be included on the federal 2020 Census.

The U.S. Department of Commerce says that the official 2020 Census will also include a question of a person’s citizenship status. The department says that this question will get the most accurate count of citizens in the country.

Opponents say that the question will lead to an undercount because some immigrants may fear answering questions about their citizenship status.

The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office announced Tuesday plans to join a lawsuit challenging the question. New York and California are also part of the suit.

Gov. Phil Murphy released a statement on Twitter that said, “If New Jersey residents are afraid to be counted, it will have an impact on our ability to be properly represented in Congress and adequately funded when it comes to vital federal programs.”

The governor says that the census should never be “a partisan plaything.”

U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez also tweeted, “The federal census is not a tool to rally the president's base. It's a constitutionally-mandated count of every single person living in this country.”

The Trump Administration defended the Census question Tuesday afternoon. White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said that the question was included in every Census since 1965, but was removed in 2010.

“We’ve contained this question that has provided data that's necessary for the Department of Justice to protect voters and specifically to help us better comply with the Voting Rights Act, which is something that is important and a part of this process,” Sanders said.

But the official census, which is sent to Americans every 10 years, has not included that question since 1950. It has been included in other census surveys, which are sent to households throughout the year.

Sens. Bob Menendez, Cory Booker and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii last week introduced the "Every Person Counts Act of 2018.” 

The act requires each census to tabulate the total number of people in each state, prohibits the Secretary of Commerce from including any census question asking about a person's U.S. citizenship or immigration status and forbids the exclusion of someone based on age or service abroad.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra says that the Census has counted citizens and non-citizens alike since 1790.

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