WASHINGTON (CBSNEWS.COM/AP) — The Commerce Department says the 2020 U.S. Census will include a question about citizenship status, a move that brought a rapid response by opponents.

In a press release issued Monday night Commerce officials said the citizenship data will help the Justice Department enforce the Voting Rights Act, which protects minority voting rights.

But opponents say the question will discourage immigrants from responding to the census. A coalition of state attorneys general urged the Commerce Department last month to not add such a question, saying it could lower participation among immigrants and cause a population undercount.

The decennial census helps determine political representation in Congress, federal funding of programs and other matters.

Commerce says that between 1820 and 1950, almost every decennial census asked a question on citizenship in some form.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said the state will sue the Trump Administration over its decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census.

“We’re prepared to do what we must to protect California from a deficient Census,” he said. “Including a citizenship question on the 2020 census is not just a bad idea — it is illegal.”

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi also blasted the idea. Pelosi said in a statement that it will terrify already vulnerable people and “cause traditionally undercounted communities to be even further under-represented, financially excluded and left behind.”

The Reuters news agency reports court documents show California has filed suit.

There are also reports that Eric Holder, who was U.S. Attorney General under President Barack Obama and now heads the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, issued a statement saying the group will sue, as well. Holder calls the inclusion of the citizenship question “a direct attack on our representative democracy.”

Mr. Obama is a key supporter of the NDRC, which is battling against what it says has been rampant gerrymandering by Republicans nationwide.

(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

More From CBS Dallas / Fort Worth

Drip Pan: CBS Local App
Drip Pan: Weather App
Drip Pan: Only CBS

Watch & Listen LIVE