For the first time in decades, the census will ask respondents if they are United States citizens, the New York Times reports.
The decennial census has not included a citizenship question since 1950, but the Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, whose department oversees the Census Bureau, said late Monday night that its inclusion is "necessary to provide complete and accurate census block level data" on the voting-age population.
The announcement provoked immediate backlash from Democrats and civil rights advocates, both of whom claim it will discourage immigrants from participating in the census. Such an undercount could have negative consequences for government agencies and groups that rely on the census data, and in regions with large immigrant populations, it could lead to redistricting that skews in Republicans' favor.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has already filed suit in federal court against the Trump administration over the issue. "The citizenship question is the latest attempt by President Trump to stoke the fires of anti-immigrant hostility," Becerra said in a statement. "Now, in one fell swoop, the U.S. Commerce Department has ignored its own protocols and years of preparation in a concerted effort to suppress a fair and accurate census count from our diverse communities. The administration's claim that it is simply seeking to protect voting rights is not only laughable, but contemptible."