Twelve attorneys general — including Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey — are suing the federal government for including a question about citizenship in the 2020 census.

Homeland security expert Juliette Kayyem says the question would deter many immigrants from filling out census forms, out of fear that the data will be used by federal immigration services to target their families or communities. Even documented immigrants may be afraid to participate, she says, given the strong rhetoric coming out of the White House.

"Do you trust ... that this government would protect that information from immigrant forces?" Kayyem asked. "Of course you wouldn't."

Incomplete census numbers have consequences. Census data, which is collected every ten years, is used to determine federal funding allocations and the number of Congressional seats states have.

"A state's understanding of who is in their state will impact all sorts of budgetary decisions they make," Kayyem said. "A lot of federal funds are based on demographics and population size. So it's going to hurt everyone who does not live in an agrarian state, essentially."