A federal court in New York City blocked the Trump administration's efforts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.
The White House argued the question was necessary in order to uphold certain provisions of the Voting Rights Act. But the court called that justification a "sham."
“Every census from 1820 to 2000 asked at least a substantial portion of the population whether or not they were a citizen, so it's certainly well-established,” says Steven Camarota, director of research for the Center for Immigration Studies.
Camarota says the real battle is over money and power, because accurately recording illegal aliens could result in fewer congressional seats and federal dollars for border states.
“A state like Pennsylvania or Ohio, where most of the adults are U.S.citizens, they lose representation to states like California and Arizona so that you can create a congressional district in which a very large faction of the people are not American citizens,” he says.
A precise account of illegal aliens living in the U.S. could help direct resources where they're needed.
“If there's a citizenship question then part of their post-census research will include a careful evaluation of how well we'recapturing the immigrant population, and I think that could be invaluable,” he says.
The Justice Department is expected to appeal the decision.