Attorney General Becerra Sues Trump Administration over Unconstitutional Decision to Add Citizenship Question on 2020 Census

Tuesday, March 27, 2018
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

Since 1790, Census Has Counted Citizens and Non-Citizens   

Local Communities Depend on Census Numbers to Determine the Need for Critical Services Including Disaster Relief, Infrastructure, Schools, and Public Health and Safety  

SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has filed a lawsuit against the Trump Administration over its decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 U.S. Census Bureau questionnaire. An accurate population count of all individuals – regardless of citizenship status – is mandated every ten years under the U.S. Constitution. In addition to determining Congressional representation and distribution of federal funding, an accurate population count enables states and localities to identify the need for critical services like disaster relief, infrastructure projects, public health assistance, schools, and police and fire protection.

“An accurate census count sets in motion the services and benefits that shape the future of every Californian. The census constitutes the backbone for planning how and where our communities will invest taxpayer dollars,” said Attorney General Becerra. “California simply has too much to lose to allow the Trump Administration to botch this important decennial obligation. What the Trump Administration is requesting is not just alarming, it is an unconstitutional attempt to disrupt an accurate Census count.”  

“By including a question about citizenship in the decennial Census, the Trump Administration has cast aside science, common sense, and the Constitution,” said Secretary of State Padilla. “The Commerce Department has ignored its own protocols, years of preparation, and half a century of policy in a concerted effort to suppress a fair and accurate census count from our diverse communities. A population undercount not only threatens our economy, it jeopardizes our fair representation in Congress and our fundamental voting rights. California will fight back.” 

In his lawsuit, Attorney General Becerra alleges that including a citizenship question in the 2020 U.S. Census Bureau questionnaire violates: 

  • Article I, section 2 of the Constitution, which requires the “actual Enumeration” of all people in each state every ten years.
  • The Administrative Procedure Act’s prohibition against “arbitrary and capricious” agency action. 

Attorney General Becerra filed today’s lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Attorney General Becerra has been a vocal opponent of the Trump Administration’s attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 U.S. Census Bureau questionnaire. On February 12, 2018, he co-led a coalition of 19 Attorneys General in sending a letter to Secretary Ross, cautioning that a citizenship question would violate the U.S. Constitution and federal statutes. Yesterday, Attorney General Becerra – along with Secretary of State Alex Padilla – published an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle highlighting how high the stakes are for California. 

A copy of the complaint is attached to the electronic version of this release at

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PDF icon Complaint.pdf1.2 MB