Administration

White House defends citizenship question on census

The White House on Tuesday defended its decision to include a citizenship question on the 2020 census, a shift that has drawn sharp criticism and lawsuits from Democrats. 

"This is a question that's been included in every census since 1965, with the exception of 2010, when it was removed," White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Tuesday. 

"We've contained this question that provides data that is necessary for the Department of Justice to protect voters and specifically help us better comply with the Voting Rights Act." 

The official census, sent to every American once every decade, hasn't included the question since 1950. However, it has been a question listed on other census surveys, such as the American Community Survey, which is regularly sent to households throughout the year. 

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced the citizenship decision in a memo released Monday night. The seemingly arcane tweak drew an outcry from Democrats who warned it could have a major impact on immigrant communities.

Census data helps the government allocate federal aid and draw state legislative districts. Critics warn the question will deter immigrants in the country illegally from filling out the census, which could lead to less federal aid to areas with high populations of such immigrants. 

Democrats have met the change with efforts to sue and block the change with legislation, although it's unclear whether those avenues have legs. 

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