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NM group joins federal lawsuit over Census question

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A New Mexico immigrants rights group has joined a federal lawsuit regarding a citizenship question on the 2020 U.S. Census.

Somos Un Pueblo Unido said in a news release that the question asking whether people are U.S. citizens could result in the loss of millions in federal funding to the state and its rural communities, as well as representation in Congress, because it likely will deter Latino and immigrant populations from answering the surveys.

The lawsuit was filed by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) in federal court after the U.S. Department of Commerce announced in March that it would include a citizenship question on the upcoming Census survey.

Somos Un Pueblo Unido said the Commerce Department’s decision came amid “an uptick in (Immigration and Customs) enforcement activities in New Mexico and more aggressive tactics at businesses, courthouses and in neighborhoods” and would likely deter participation by Latinos and immigrants “who are already on edge and feeling targeted by federal agencies.”

The group indicated that about $6 billion in federal dollars to New Mexico is tied to an accurate Census count. “According to a report from the New Mexico Geospatial Advisory Committee, an undercount as small as 1 percent could cost New Mexico $600 million in federal monies,” the news release stated.

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The news release also stated that data shows that about 10 percent of New Mexico is foreign born and about 100,000 children born in the state have at least one immigrant parent.

The Commerce Department explained its decision by saing that an accurate count of citizens of voting age is needed to comply with the Voting Rights Act, which is intended, in part, to protect the rights of minorities.

Questions about citizenship were on each Census from 1840 until 1950, but have not been asked since 1960.

The U.S. Census occurs every 10 years.