(CN) – Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to sign on as a plaintiff in California’s lawsuit opposing the inclusion of a question in the 2020 Census that will ask residents about their residency status.
Supervisors voted to join State Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s lawsuit as plaintiffs after filing an April 3 amicus brief in the case. Becerra sued President Donald Trump’s administration on March 27 over the proposed inclusion of the citizenship question, calling it “unconstitutional.”
California is home to 10 million immigrant residents, including 3.5 million immigrants who live in Los Angeles County, according to a memo by Supervisor Hilda Solis, who introduced the motion.
Solis said the citizenship question could lead to an incomplete count of California residents and decreased funding for “vulnerable populations” including undocumented immigrants.
Alexandra Morales, of the Central American Resource Center in Los Angeles, called the proposed inclusion of the question a “shameless attack on immigrant communities.” Morales said the Trump administration moved to include the question to achieve “political goals” while California has “chosen to keep families together.”
The U.S. Census Bureau conducts a census of the nation’s population every ten years in order to gather data population, demographic information and set the number of each state’s congressional representatives. The 2020 census will be the first to be implemented primarily online and is expected to cost an estimated $15.6 billion.
Census data is used by the federal government to determine how to allocate more than $400 billion in federal funding each year on education, public health, transportation and other programs.
On March 26, 2018, the United States Commerce Department announced that the 2020 U.S. Census will include a question about citizenship status.
In a May 1 memo to Supervisors, Solis said the inclusion of the citizenship question “threatens to cause great harm to jurisdictions with a significant immigrant population” such as Los Angeles County.
“A question regarding citizenship on the 2020 Census will result in an extreme undercount of individuals who are afraid to disclose their citizenship status,” Solis said in the memo, “Especially in the current environment of increased immigration enforcement.”
The inclusion of the documentation inquiry would mark the first time in 70 years the census raises a question that will directly impact immigrant communities.
The Los Angeles City Council has also voted to oppose the citizen question. Council members approved a measure on April 24 which supports legislative action that provides funds to cities for outreach and educational programs in the state’s effort towards a “complete count” for the 2020 Census.
According to the Pew Research Center, an estimated 2.2 million of California’s 40 million residents are undocumented immigrants, and Los Angeles is believed to be home to about 1.5 million of them.
Morales said the citizenship question would lead to unreported crimes in communities with large numbers of immigrants.
Undocumented immigrants may choose not to respond to census workers out of fear of being targeted for deportation by Trump’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, Morales said.
Solis said more work is needed to educate communities which are actively resisting state laws protecting immigrants such as SB 54, California’s so-called Sanctuary State bill which limits cooperation with between California law enforcement agencies and federal immigration authorities.
“We need to rely on everyone to have an open mind,” Solis said, noting the recent action by Orange County cities to join a federal lawsuit opposing SB 54.
On March 6, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against California, seeking an injunction to prevent it from enforcing three pro-immigrant bills – AB 450, AB 103, and SB 54.
Supervisors voted 4-1 at the same hearing Tuesday to file an amicus brief in support the state’s defense of the lawsuit filed by the DOJ.
Emi MacLean, an attorney with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, said California entities have no obligation to do the dirty work of the federal government, referring to raids and deportations by ICE.
Pro-immigrant bills such as SB 54 represent the “will of the people of California” and protect immigrant families from “being ripped apart,” she said.
“Our [state] laws and policies must make clear immigrants have a right to be counted [in the 2020 Census],” MacLean said.