Citizenship question on 2020 Census sparks lawsuit by City of Phoenix

Phoenix's City Council has voted to sue the federal government, in response to a plan to include a question over U.S. citizenship status in the 2020 Census.

In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, Mayor Greg Stanton said "a question about citizenship will inevitably result in an undercount - and Phoenix and its residents have too much to lose in the 2020 Census count if it's not done right".

City officials say councilmembers Kate Gallego and Daniel Valenzuela sent a letter to the mayor, asking the council to vote on the item during a policy meeting. The 7-2 vote from the City Council sealed the motion along party lines.

Councilwoman Laura Pastor says that if people were scared away by the question, then an undercount hurts the city's bottom line.

"At the end of the day, the reason why we want this item off the Census packet is because it comes down to dollars," said Councilwoman Pastor. "Every person we count, every person in this room, you mean dollars to the city, you mean money to the city."

City officials say an undercount of Phoenix residents could have adverse effects on a number of programs, including Section 8 housing assistance, Head Start, Children's Health Insurance Program, and law enforcement and homeland security grants.

"It's what those dollars go for," said Mayor Stanton. "We're talking about dollars like Community Development Block Grants."

Councilman Jim Waring, however, voted no, saying there was really no reason for the move.

"The city is basically spending time and resources, taxpayer dollars," said Councilman Waring. "That was the vote today, on a symbolic gesture that will change nothing, not change the outcome of this at all, whether the question is on the census or not."

More than a dozen cities and states, along with the U.S. Conference of Mayors, have reportedly joined lawsuits against the federal government.