Wilbur Ross Defends Citizenship Question on 2020 Census

(Bloomberg) -- U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross defended his decision to include a citizenship question on the 2020 Census as Democrats in Congress criticized the move as political effort aimed at discouraging the participation of immigrants and non-citizens.

“Obtaining complete and accurate information for use in determining citizen age voting populations to enforce the Voting Rights Act is a legitimate government purpose,’’ Ross said in his prepared remarks to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform in Washington.

“And I determined that the importance of that goal outweighed any potential decrease in self-response rates that may result from people violating their legal duty to respond.”

Federal judges in New York and San Francisco have blocked the Trump administration’s plan to put a question about citizenship on the 2020 census. The Commerce Department said in March last year that it was reinstating the question at the request of the Justice Department, to help Justice enforce the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which prohibited discrimination. The Supreme Court has agreed to consider the New York ruling in April.

Democrats, immigrant-rights groups and other critics say the addition of the citizenship question will impede the Census Bureau’s count of the U.S. population by lessening participation. The census hasn’t included a question about citizenship since 1950.

Representative Gerry Connolly, a Democrat from Virginia, said in a written statement that he heard rumors in early 2018 that the Trump administration was planning to add the question to the next Census. Efforts to find out more about the plans were blocked, he said.

“I was concerned then, as I am now, that the citizenship question will reduce the accuracy of the 2020 Census and increase the overall cost of census operations,” Connolly said in a written statement. “It is time to hold Secretary Ross responsible for what he said before Congress and for the department’s obstruction of the committee’s investigation into the citizenship question.”

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