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2020 census will ask about citizenship for the first time in 70 years; California sues to block it

The Trump administration will reinstate a question on citizenship status for the 2020 census, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced Monday The state of California responded with a lawsuit to stop the move. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The U.S. decennial census will reinstate a question on citizenship status for the 2020 census, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced Monday. The change marks the first time in 70 years that the census will include a citizenship question — and now the state of California is suing to stop the move.

It will be the same question that's been part of the annual American Community Survey since 2005, the release said.

The request to reinstate the question about citizenship came from the Department of Justice, which will use the data to help enforce the Voting Rights Act, which protects minority voting rights.

The citizenship question was part of "almost every decennial census" between 1820 and 1950, according to the release.

How does the data help protect minority voting rights?

The decennial census is mandated by the Constitution and its data is used to determine the apportionment of congressional seats among states, enforcement of voting rights laws, and allocation of federal funds.

"These are foundational elements of our democracy, and it is therefore incumbent upon the Department and the Census Bureau to make every effort to provide a complete and accurate decennial census," Secretary Wilbur Ross wrote in a memo directing the Census Bureau to reinstate the question.

But critics worry the information will be used to deport illegal immigrants.

Why did California sue the Trump administration over the question?

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D) filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration shortly after the Commerce Department's announcement late Monday, the Washington Post reported.

"We're prepared to do what we must to protect California from a deficient Census," Becerra said. "Including a citizenship question on the 2020 census is not just a bad idea — it is illegal."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D) also took aim at the Trump administration about the change.

“The Trump Administration’s late night announcement of a new citizenship question violates the clear constitutional mandate to provide an accurate count of all people living in the United States. This detrimental change will inject fear and distrust into vulnerable communities, and cause traditionally undercounted communities to be even further under-represented, financially excluded and left behind," Pelosi said in a release.

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