New evidence contradicts Trump’s citizenship issue for census reasons


Previously undisclosed internal communications indicated that the Trump administration attempted to add a citizenship question to the census with the goal of influencing the distribution of members of Congress, according to a report from the House Oversight and Reform Committee Wednesday.

The documents appear to conflict with statements made under oath then-Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, who told the committee that lobbying for the citizenship issue had nothing to do with distribution and that the reason for adding it was to help enforce the Voting Rights Act.

The nearly 500 documents, the report said, include several drafts of an August 2017 memo prepared by Commerce Department attorney and political appointee James Outmeyer, in which he was initially warned that using the citizenship issue for distribution could be illegal and violate the Constitution. .

In later drafts, Othmer and another political appointee, the Earl of Comstock, revised the draft to say there was “nothing illegal or unconstitutional about adding a question of citizenship” and to claim that the Founding Fathers “intended that the number of coupons should be based on legal residents”. reports said. In December 2017, the Department of Justice sent an official request to the Department of Commerce, which oversees the Bureau of Statistics, asking it to add the question; In March 2018, Ross announced that he would be added to the 2020 Census.

Oversight Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney (DN. Y.) said in a statement.

Management’s efforts to add the question continued for two years. It has been challenged by civil rights groups that have criticized it as an attempt to reduce the number of Latinos and scare immigrant communities from participating in a survey outlining congressional distribution and redistricting, as well as spending $1.5 trillion in federal money annually.

The new evidence echoes documents that surfaced during litigation over the question, including a study by a Republican agent that found adding the citizenship question would benefit Republicans in redistricting.

“It was clearly a farce,” said former Census Bureau director John Thompson, who was testing at the time, saying that the bureau under Ross had not properly tested the citizenship issue before adding it. “I’m glad the committee got the materials to reinforce this, but that wasn’t surprising.”

“Lest anyone suspects that what the Trump administration was about to do is wrong, these documents show that even the Trump administration itself knew what it was doing was illegal,” said Thomas Wolfe, deputy director of the Democracy Program at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice. “

The Supreme Court ruled in 2019 that the administration’s stated rationale for adding the question was “contrived,” and that the administration abandoned the effort. Then it said it would instead prevent illegal immigrants from appropriating, unleashing another barrage of judicial battles that continued into the final days of Donald Trump’s presidency.

This attempt ultimately failed when, due to pandemic-related delays, the Census Bureau was unable to deliver the state’s total population to the president before he left office. The administration was also unable to explain how it planned to identify and count illegal immigrants, for whom there is no official count.

Census data show the breadth of diversity; The number of white people falling for the first time

Documents obtained by the commission had been withheld by the Trump administration despite the subpoenas, the report said, adding that the commission faced “unprecedented obstacles” from administration officials. The report noted that Ross and then-Attorney General William B. New management.

Maloney introduced a bill last week that she said was designed to protect the Census Bureau from future attempts to politicize it. HR 8326, A Fair and Accurate Census Ensuring Act, that would prevent the dismissal of a Director of the Census Bureau without just cause, Limiting the number of political appointees to the office and prohibiting the Secretary of Commerce from adding topics or questions to the survey “unless it follows current statutory requirements for prior notification to Congress.” He. She Will be It also prevents new questions from appearing in the decimal form unless they are “researched, tested, approved by the Secretary and evaluated by the Government Accountability Office.”

Thompson estimated the bill. “I think it will protect the independence of the Census Bureau,” he said. “I am very excited about the bill. … I hope it gets revitalized.”

But even if that were the case, he said, the office might not be completely insulated from partisan interference. Under the Republican House and Senate, “Congress may direct the Census Bureau to collect citizenship [information] About the census, and then there could be a battle to get the citizenship question in the 2030 census, adding, “Congress could try to pass a law that says you have to do the division by citizenship.”

Wolf said the barrier to passing a constitutional amendment would be high. However, the Trump administration’s efforts to add the issue of citizenship and exclude undocumented people from the division “suggests that the 2020 census was in grave danger and that we only escaped through a combination of significant legal victories and a certain amount of luck,” he said. “Obviously the census is too fragile to continue in its threatened state.”

Besides restricting political appointees and giving the director of the Census Bureau additional powers, as Maloney’s bill suggests, Wolff suggested curtailing the president’s ability to influence distribution, as suggested by Trump. By law, the 435 House of Representatives seats are supposed to be automatically redistributed based on the state’s total population.

“The president’s role in the distribution was supposed to be administrative,” Wolf said. “That’s why it’s called auto-segmentation.”

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