Commerce's Ross insists census citizenship question supports Voting Rights Act

Remigio Civitarese
Marzo 17, 2019

Ross testified a year ago to lawmakers that the Justice Department "initiated" the request for the question because the agency wants the responses to help it enforce Voting Rights Act provisions against discrimination of racial and language minorities.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Thursday declined to elaborate on what conversations he may have had with the White House about adding a Census citizenship question - beyond detailing his previously-known spring 2017 phone call with then-Trump advisor Steve Bannon. "Michael Cohen lied to Congress and now he's going to prison". Ultimately, Ross determined in March 2018 that reinstating the question was warranted. Bob Gibbs, said the census asks many detailed personal questions about race, nationality and income for statistical purposes, and it makes sense to include citizenship. The Supreme Court is set to hold a hearing on it April 23, and is expected to rule on it by June, shortly before the survey forms are due to go to the printer. NBC reported that new evidence emerged from a, "multi-state lawsuit against Ross", that Ross was interested in adding a citizenship question earlier than he claimed.

In his closing remarks, committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat, told Ross he was "not totally convinced that this did not come from Mr. Bannon and that you did not have it in mind from the very beginning".

"This is because the census is used to reapportion Congressional seats, and Democrats know that Congressional apportionment according to the population of citizens, rather than total population, will cause them to lose seats in Congress", the column said, alleging that Democrats need the votes of non-citizens, who are not now allowed to vote, "to survive as a party".

At the hearing, Democrats revealed new information from an interview with a senior Justice Department official, John Gore, who said that in the fall of 2017, he spoke to James Uthmeier, in the office of general counsel at the Commerce Department, about the citizenship question, and that Uthmeier had a memo delivered to the Justice Department about the citizenship question. Since its attempted inclusion in the 2020 census, Ross has fielded three legal challenges from jurisdictions with high immigrant populations, including a coalition suit of 18 states and six cities.

The secretary may submit additional topics or questions if he or she "finds new circumstances exist" that require those additions, but the secretary must provide a report explaining those circumstances.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross testifies before a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on oversight of the Commerce Department in Washington U.S
House Oversight Hearing With Wilbur Ross Focuses On Census Citizenship Question

"I have no need to respond", Ross said.

Ross said the Census Bureau was already trying to reach these communities. Cummings then asked Ross to provide a written statement that he had complied with the law.

Ross denied he was behind the Justice Department's request.

House Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings asked Ross whether or not he would withdraw his three prior testimonies stating that he pursued adding a question of citizenship to the 2020 census exclusively due to a request from the DOJ. I do not think his testimony did anything to restore faith in the administration's end goal for including the question above the objections of Census Bureau experts. "But this level of partisanship itself is making the Census Bureau's job far more hard already". Wilbur Ross Thursday that he has "zero credibility" and that he should resign. "American communities will suffer the consequences of this deception, which has increased the climate of fear throughout our country and will undermine the accuracy of the count".

"These documents showed that he was not merely responding to a request from another agency", Cummings said.

He noted that Ross had sought to postpone the hearing, but agreed to appear after the committee agreed not to question him about his financial disclosures or the selling of nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia.

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