In Maryland, where almost 15 percent of people are foreign-born and around 250,000 are undocumented, Attorney General Brian Frosh said the question would result in the loss of federal funds for the state and deprive it of fair representation in Congress.
The Trump administration made a decision to add the citizenship question late in the process for developing the 2020 questionnaire, and the Commerce Department chose to add the question despite research from the Census Bureau concluding that such a change to the questionaire could depress response rates, which the lawsuit filed Tuesday also notes.
"Decade after decade, census officials have said very clearly that simply asking about immigration status would create an environment of fear and mistrust in immigrant communities, communities of color", he said.
The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of NY, also includes six cities and the bipartisan U.S. Conference of Mayors and comes a week after California sued the administration over the same issue.
"This is a blatant effort to undermine the census and to prevent the census bureau from carrying out its clear constitutional mandate", Schneiderman said at a press conference, unveiling the lawsuit that was co-signed by almost 20 other attorney generals and the US Conference of Mayors.
Those opposed to the citizenship question claim that such a chilling effect will leave often-Democratic states underrepresented in the census - which will affect funding and also representation in Congress.
The Census Bureau hasn't included a citizenship question in its survey of all USA households since 1950, well before the passage of a 1965 law meant to ensure minority groups were fully represented in the once-a-decade count. A fair and accurate 2020 count is constitutionally mandated to ensure political power and resources remain with the people - where they belong.
Tom Cochran, executive director of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, which represents mayors of cities with 30,000 or more residents, said the addition of the question could hurt cities regardless of party.
The long form has now been discontinued and instead the census relies on the American Community Survey, which is sent to between 1 and 2 percent of households each year, for citizenship estimates. "I am filing this lawsuit to ensure that immigrants in IL are represented fairly and accurately".
Rather than invoking federal anti-discrimination law, however, the three-count complaint charges the U.S. Department of Commerce, the Bureau of the Census and their leaders with violating the Constitution's enumeration clause and the Administrative Procedure Act.
The decennial census is also used to apportion seats in the House of Representatives, and each plaintiff state relies on population information from the Census Bureau to draw statewide redistricting plans for their Congressional and state legislative districts.
Several states already have joined a separate lawsuit filed by California's attorney general last week that seeks to block the citizenship question from being added to the census questionnaire.