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Immigrant Rights Groups File a Lawsuit Challenging the Census' Citizenship Question

Several immigrant rights organizations filed a federal lawsuit on Thursday arguing that the Trump administration's decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census violates the Constitution.

In the lawsuit—which the Hill reports is the fifth legal challenge to the administration's census addition—the plaintiffs contend that the question could discourage certain ethnic minorities from completing the census due to fears that their responses could be used against them.

This could lead to a significant population undercount, the plaintiffs claim, which could then reduce the representation of minorities in government bodies including the House of Representatives when political districts for the next decade are reassessed.

In addition, an "undercount of any demographic group could undercut the validity of public health and social programs based on census data for the next decade," as Pacific Standard reported in March.

The lawsuit alleges that a political motive underlies the decision to include the citizenship question: Ethnic minorities such as Asian Americans and Latinos tend to vote for Democratic candidates, as the New York Times reports, and there's consensus among political scientists and strategists that undercounting these groups would likely benefit Republicans come election season.

The Department of Justice has defended the re-introduction of a citizenship question to the census, saying it "will allow the department to protect the right to vote and ensure free and fair elections for all Americans." No such question has appeared on the census since 1950, the Times reports, and the Census Bureau has continually worked to block its inclusion.