States, cities join NY to sue over census citizenship question

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has fought the Trump travel ban, the cancellation of DACA, and now the change coming to the U.S. Census in 2020.

"They're throwing away decades of proven practice by demanding that people responding to this census disclose their citizenship status," Schneiderman said. "I am proud to say that the complaint we filed today will stop this in its tracks."

Schneiderman's lawsuit says the Trump administration added the citizenship question to deter immigrant participation. He argues that intent is at odds with the U.S. Constitution's command that the census count every person in the United States.

"We stand to lose money because this determines congressional representation and the Electoral College, we stand to lose political representation," Schneiderman said. "This is an affront to our national ideals, this is an affront to the Constitution."

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross added the citizenship question at the behest of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who defended the change as necessary to enforce the Voting Rights Act.

Schneiderman called that a pretext.

"Jeff Sessions has not brought one case under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act since he's been attorney general," Schneiderman said. "And in his confirmation hearings said it is an 'intrusive' piece of federal legislation."

A "who's who" of New York politics were also on hand at Tuesday's announcement to highlight how the census results determine where $700 billion of federal funding goes.

"It's not only immigrants who are going to suffer," U.S. Rep. Nydia Velázquez, D-N.Y., said. "Everyone in the classroom—whether you are black, white, Latino, or Asian."

Joining the lawsuit are six cities, the bipartisan U.S. Conference of Mayors, and 17 other Democratic attorneys general, including Oregon's Ellen Rosenblum, who partnered with Schneiderman to block President Trump's travel ban and DACA cancellation.

"No case we have worked on together, however, is more important, significant, or urgent than this one," Rosenblum said.

While the U.S. Supreme Court hasn't definitively weighed in on either the travel ban or the DACA cancellation cases, lower courts have sided with Schneiderman. He hopes to repeat that feat with the 54-page filing in New York federal court.