Photo Courtesy of Secretary of State's Office 

In 2017 alone, California received $3.8 billion in federal highway funding and, in 2016, received $2.4 billion for the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

But all those dollars could be in jeopardy, say California authorities, if the 2020 Census shows an undercount of the residents in the state. And that’s the fear that has been creeping along since it was announced that the federal count would include a question about the citizenship of the respondent.

Pro immigrant and civil liberties groups have railed against the idea, arguing it would affect states like California – the state with the highest number of foreign-born residents in the United States – by making people apprehensive about filling out and returning the questionnaire.

“We believe in a fair, full, and accurate Census count and this question is counter productive to every single one of those objectives,” stated Joseph Villela, Policy Director for the largest immigrant rights organization in California, the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA),

For her part, Angelica Salas, CHIRLA Executive Director, noted that the “Census is integral to our democracy and vital to people’s lives, housing, schools, health care, business investments, and infrastructure projects. We must tell the Trump Administration adding a citizenship question will undermine a successful count of all who reside in the United States.”

“The addition of the citizenship question would negatively impact California disproportionately  in comparison to other states, because nearly a quarter of the nation’s undocumented immigrants reside in California. Furthermore, it is the state with the largest population of non-citizens,” Salas added.

You Still Have a Say in the Matter

However, it’s not too late. People still have a say in the matter.

 This week in Sacramento, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla  unveiled — a new web portal that will provide news and resources for Californians leading up to and during the 2020 Census.

As the first resource offering, the portal will provide a link to help interested Californians officially submit their public comments on the 2020 Census through the Federal Register. The U.S. Census Bureau public comment period ends Tuesday, August 7, 2018 at 11:59 p.m. EST.

“The stakes of the 2020 census are incredibly high for all Californians,” Secretary of State Alex Padilla said. “For decades, Census directors under both Democratic and Republican administrations abided by department policy and did not include a citizenship question. The Trump Administration’s decision to include a citizenship question on the 2020 census completely disregards science and proven methodology.

“I urge all Californians to speak out and submit a comment urging the exclusion of the citizenship question. The Trump Administration has clearly chosen to question the citizenship of every person in America in an effort to discourage diverse communities from participating. A census undercount would cost California its rightful share of billions of dollars in federal funding as well as our due representation in congress,” Padilla noted.

The hope is that if the Federal Registry receives enough comments against the proposal, the Government will be forced to abandon the idea.


On March 26, 2018, the U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced the addition of the citizenship question saying it was needed in part to help the government enforce the Voting Rights Act, a 1965 law meant to protect political representation of minority groups. The Commerce Department is responsible for the census.

Ross alleged it came after a Department of Justice request. On March 29, the Census Bureau formally submitted the questionnaire to Congress with the citizenship question added. California immediately sued to challenge the addition of the question.

This would be the first time since 1950 that the federal count will include a citizenship question.

The plan has resulted in several lawsuits, including one in California, the nation’s most populous state with the highest concentration of foreign-born residents, and another in New York brought by 17 Democratic attorneys general, the District of Columbia, six cities and the bipartisan U.S. Conference of Mayors.

The lawsuit predicts the citizenship question will result in at least two states losing a congressional seat. It alleges that the question was added unconstitutionally with discriminatory intent to diminish the political power and influence of Latinos, Asian-Americans, Arab-Americans and immigrant communities of color generally.

“It’s simple. For the Census to fulfill its purpose, it needs to count every person,” California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom said after Padilla announced the launch of the portal.

“The Trump Administration’s willingness to jeopardize the integrity of the Census threatens democratic representation and millions in health, education, and infrastructure investments that are vital to all Californians,” the California Governor candidate added.

The decennial census is required by the Constitution and used to determine the number of seats each state has in the House of Representatives, as well as how federal money is distributed to local communities.