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Commonwealth of Virginia
Office of the Attorney General

Mark Herring
Attorney General

202 North Ninth Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219


For media inquiries only, contact:  
Charlotte Gomer, Press Secretary
Phone: (804)786-1022 
Mobile: (804) 512-2552
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~ Herring joins bipartisan coalition to submit comments complementing ongoing litigation that outlines funding risks from depressed census turnout following Trump Administration’s attempt to intimidate immigrants ~

RICHMOND (August 7, 2018) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring and a bipartisan coalition of 18 states plus the District of Columbia, nine cities, four counties and the U.S. Conference of Mayors submitted a formal comment regarding the upcoming Census urging the Census Bureau to reconsider its decision, in a reversal of longstanding Bureau practice, to include an unnecessary citizenship provision that will impair the Bureau’s essential function of counting all people in the 2020 Census.


“By including this citizenship provision, the Trump Administration is making the Census about ideology, not accuracy,” said Attorney General Herring. “The Census determines how many congressional representatives and electoral votes Virginia gets, and how much federal funding comes to the Commonwealth for crucial things like healthcare, education, and transportation. There is overwhelming evidence that including this provision will cause underreporting and produce an inaccurate census. In the current climate, many immigrants are already cautious of the government, and it is clear that this move by the Trump Administration is just another attempt to intimidate and instill fear in immigrant communities.”


The comment was submitted by the same group that joined a lawsuit filed in May that has already survived one legal challenge in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. The suit was filed by Attorneys General of New York, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia; the cities of Central Falls, RI (the site of the 2018 end-to-end test of the Census), Chicago, Columbus, New York, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Providence, San Francisco, and Seattle; Cameron County, TX; El Paso County, TX; Hidalgo County, TX; and Monterey County, CA and the U.S. Conference of Mayors.


The comment explains that demanding citizenship information on the Census is likely to depress response rates in cities and states with large immigrant populations, directly threatening those states’ fair representation in Congress and the Electoral College, as well as billions of dollars in critical federal funds.


The comment further explains that the Census Bureau does not need citizenship information to properly perform its function, as the primary duty of the Census under the Constitution is to count all persons in the United States without regard to citizenship. Nor will the citizenship provision have practical utility; to the contrary, its deterrent effect on immigrant communities will reduce response rates and negatively impact the accuracy of the census. Furthermore, the Bureau has not performed any – much less adequate – testing of the citizenship demand to ensure the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected. 


The Trump Administration’s decision to add a citizenship provision reverses decades of past practice. In 1980, the Census Bureau rejected the addition of a citizenship provision, concluding that “[a]ny effort to ascertain citizenship will inevitably jeopardize the overall accuracy of the population count. Obtaining the cooperation of a suspicious and fearful population would be impossible if the group being counted perceived any possibility of the information being used against them. Questions as to citizenship are particularly sensitive in minority communities and would inevitably trigger hostility, resentment, and refusal to cooperate.”


More recently, in 2009, all eight former Directors of the Census Bureau dating back to 1979 – who served under both Democratic and Republican presidents – confirmed in testimony to Congress that the addition of a citizenship provision would depress participation and lead to a significant undercount, undermining the purpose of the Census itself.


Adding the citizenship provision to the 2020 Census is the latest effort by the Trump Administration to suppress response rates by members of minority and immigrant communities. Under the Constitution, the Census Bureau has an obligation to determine “the whole number of persons in each state.” Nevertheless, the Trump Administration intends to demand citizenship information in the 2020 Census form sent to every household in the United States, even though the Census is supposed to count citizens and non-citizens alike. Non-citizens are counted in the Census for the purposes of federal funds, apportioning of congressional seats and Electoral College votes, and the drawing of state and local districts. Demanding citizenship information in the Census is expected to depress participation among immigrants, causing a population undercount that would disproportionately harm states and cities with large immigrant communities.


The Census Bureau’s own research shows that the decision to demand citizenship information will “inevitably jeopardize the overall accuracy of the population count” by significantly deterring participation in immigrant communities, because of concerns about how the federal government will use citizenship information. These concerns are amplified by President Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and pattern of actions that target immigrant communities.