WASHINGTON — The 2020 census will ask respondents whether they are United States citizens, the Commerce Department announced Monday night, agreeing to a Trump administration request with highly charged political and social implications that many officials feared would result in a substantial undercount.
In a statement released Monday, the Commerce Department, which oversees the Census Bureau, said Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had “determined that reinstatement of a citizenship question on the 2020 decennial census questionnaire is necessary to provide complete and accurate census block level data,” allowing the department to accurately measure the portion of the population eligible to vote.
But his decision immediately invited a legal challenge: Xavier Becerra, California’s attorney general, plans to sue the Trump administration over the decision, a spokeswoman for Mr. Becerra said late Monday.
Critics of the change and experts in the Census Bureau itself have said that, amid a fiery immigration debate, the inclusion of a citizenship question could prompt immigrants who are in the country illegally not to respond. That would result in a severe undercount of the population — and, in turn, faulty data for government agencies and outside groups that rely on the census. The effects would also bleed into the redistricting of the House and state legislatures in the next decade.
Critics fear that the highly charged request by the Trump administration will result in a substantial undercount of the population.