SAN FRANCISCO – The Trump administration will try to persuade a U.S. judge Friday to let it add a citizenship question to the 2020 U.S. census for the first time in nearly 70 years, a move that opponents say would lead to an undercount of immigrants and Latinos.
Lawsuits by California and numerous cities in the state say asking people whether they are citizens of the U.S. is politically motivated and would discourage immigrants and Latinos from participating in the population count.
Judge Richard Seeborg in San Francisco is not expected to issue a ruling immediately after closing arguments. He heard nearly a week of testimony last month in the lawsuits, which assert that the question would result in an undercount that would jeopardize federal funding and the state’s representation in Congress.
Census numbers are used to determine states’ distribution of congressional seats and billions of dollars in federal funding.
The lawsuits urge Seeborg to keep the citizenship question off the census. A federal judge in New York already has barred the Trump administration from adding it in a separate set of lawsuits.
The Trump administration says it will appeal directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The U.S. Justice Department argues that census officials take steps to guard against an undercount, including making in-person follow-up visits, so the final numbers will be accurate.
Households that skip the citizenship question but otherwise fill out a substantial portion of the questionnaire will still be counted, Justice Department attorneys said in court documents.
All households were last asked whether individuals were U.S. citizens in the 1950 census.
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