Capitol Alert

Don’t ask about citizenship on census, California tells Trump

Xavier Becerra, attorney general of California, speaks during an event last year in Pasadena.
Xavier Becerra, attorney general of California, speaks during an event last year in Pasadena. TNS

California, home to 1 in 4 of the nation’s foreign-born population, is pushing back against the Trump administration’s efforts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

On Monday, just as President Donald Trump’s choice to lead the upcoming census, Thomas Brunell, reportedly withdrew himself from consideration for the post, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and 18 other state attorneys general registered their opposition to the question.

The Justice Department has asked the Census Bureau to include a citizenship question on the upcoming report. Becerra believes the department is wrong when it argues that the addition would be “critical to the department’s enforcement of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.”

Becerra and his cohorts, in a letter to U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, add that such a question would violate the U.S. Census Bureau’s obligations under the Constitution because it requires “counting the whole number of persons in each State,” not just citizens.

“What the Trump Administration is requesting is not just alarming, it is illegal,” Becerra said.

“The California Department of Justice is putting President Trump on notice: if a citizenship question is added to the 2020 U.S. Census Bureau questionnaire, we are prepared to take any and all necessary legal action to protect a full and accurate Census,” he added.

Becerra’s letter noted an inaccurate census could costs some states seats in the House.

The challenge is the latest in a multifront spat between leaders of the liberal state and Trump’s officials. Becerra has filed dozens of lawsuits challenging Trump over immigration, health care and the environment.

From Becerra’s perspective the approach is good policy and good politics. He is facing a 2018 challenge, from the left, from Democrat Dave Jones. The leadership here has largely aligned itself against the administration’s immigration crackdown and decision to put an expiration date on the program shielding immigrants who came here as children.

The census issue provided another opportunity for contrast. Secretary of State Alex Padilla, who repeatedly railed against Trump’s since-disbanded voter fraud commission, on Monday called the 2020 census “leaderless” and said it was in “grave jeopardy.”

“I once again urge the president to nominate someone who is qualified and widely respected to this important post as soon as possible,” Padilla, who is running for re-election and widely considered as looking at higher office, said. “The census should not be another partisan political tool for this administration to attack the diverse communities of our nation.”

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WOMEN’S FORUM: California’s gubernatorial candidates will be talking about issues that impact African American women at a first-of-its kind forum in Sacramento. Expected to attend are John Chiang, Delaine Eastin and Villaraigosa, all Democrats. It starts 5:30 p.m. at the Crest Theater. Attendees should register here.

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Now, Poizner is jumping into a race that includes one of the Legislature’s most outspoken advocates for immigrant rights, Democratic Sen. Ricardo Lara. Also running is Asif Mahmood, a Democrat and Muslim doctor from Los Angeles.

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago