Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin today announced he is working with the New York Attorney General's Office on a multi-state lawsuit to preserve a fair and accurate census. The federal Commerce Department announced on Monday that the 2020 Census will include a question on citizenship, asking whether or not a respondent is a citizen of the United States, marking the first time since 1950 such a question will be asked.
Census data is used to redraw House of Representatives districts and the number of House seats each state receives, as well as determining each state's number of electoral votes in a presidential election. In addition, data is used to proportion funding for critical federal programs, including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or food stamps), the Pell Grant Program, Highway Planning and Construction, Crime Victim Assistance, and the School Breakfast Program, among others.
"The purpose of the Census is to count each and every person residing in the United States to determine congressional representation, funding for federal programs, and policy-making decisions. Its purpose is not to determine an individual's citizenship status. In fact, asking the question will only serve to discourage individuals from responding," said Attorney General Kilmartin. "Just as concerning as Rhode Island losing a proportion of federal funds is the serious possibility of the State losing congressional representation, and with it reducing Rhode Island's voice on national policy issues."
According to Census population estimates made public in December 2017, if Rhode Island has 157 fewer people counted during the 2020 Census, Rhode Island will lose a seat in the House of Representatives.
"It is critical for every person – regardless of their citizenship status – be counted in order to preserve the level of representation the State has in Washington, D.C. The last Census in 2010, government agencies and community organizations across Rhode Island collectively worked to reassure urban and immigrant populations that the information they shared would not be used to determine immigration status. I am greatly concerned that with the climate of fear this Administration has fostered in our immigrant communities, there will be a great deal of resistance to participate in the census, resulting in significant undercounts that will directly and negatively impact Rhode Island," added Kilmartin.