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Healey Says Mass. Will Sue Trump Administration Over Census Change

In this Oct. 12 file photo, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross appears before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to discuss preparing for the 2020 Census. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)MoreCloseclosemore
In this Oct. 12 file photo, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross appears before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to discuss preparing for the 2020 Census. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

The Massachusetts attorney general says she will join a lawsuit seeking to stop the Trump administration's decision to add a question regarding citizenship to the 2020 U.S. Census.

Attorney General Maura Healey's office said Tuesday that the Democrat will join a multi-state lawsuit led by New York's attorney general. California's attorney general has also filed suit against the census decision.

In a statement, Healey said the citizenship question "will result in an undercount of the population and threaten federal funding for our state and cities. We will sue to ensure a fair and accurate Census that counts the people of Massachusetts.”

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced the question's inclusion on Monday night. Ross said the U.S. Department of Justice requested the change to determine possible violations of the Voting Rights Act.

The last time such a question was on the decennial census was 1950, though the question is on the annual American Community Survey, which reaches several million people.

Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin also slammed the Trump administration's decision, calling the move "politically motivated."

Current federal law requires the census to count all residents, not just citizens, said Galvin.

"I have no doubt that the Trump Administration is adding this question to try to suppress responses and diminish the count in states with large immigrant populations, like Massachusetts," Galvin said in a statement.

If non-citizens in Massachusetts don't answer the census honestly, or at all, said Galvin, that will affect the population numbers for the state — which would then affect representation in Congress as well as access to federal funds for transportation or education, among other things, that are linked to population size.

The administration, he said, does not want Massachusetts and other states with relatively high immigrant populations to have an accurate count.

"They don't care about the accuracy of the census. They only care about their political agenda," Galvin told WBUR.

Ross has said the citizenship question won't decrease the census' response rate.

With additional reporting from WBUR's Newscast Unit

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