Wilbur Ross to testify on census citizenship question before Congress

Wilbur Ross, U.S. Secretary of Commerce. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Gage Skidmore

Jan. 22 (UPI) — Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Tuesday agreed to testify before the House oversight and reform committee on the Trump administration’s attempts to include a question about citizenship on the 2020 census.

He’s expected to appear before the panel March 14.

Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., said Ross voluntarily agreed to the hearing without a subpoena.

“Committee members expect Secretary Ross to provide complete and truthful answers to a wide range of questions, including questions regarding the ongoing preparations for the census, the addition of a citizenship question, and other topics,” Cummings said.

The announcement comes a week after a federal judge in New York ordered the Trump administration to remove the citizenship question from the 2020 census. Questions about citizenship status haven’t been asked by census takers since the 1950s, but last year the Trump administration said it planned to add it back in 2020.

Ross first proposed the citizenship question as a way to better enforce Voting Rights Act provisions that protect racial and language minorities from discrimination.

The American Civil Liberties Union joined California and New York in fighting the citizenship question on grounds that undocumented immigrants might be afraid to respond to the census, resulting in an inaccurate tally.

“Secretary Ross’s decision to add a citizenship question in the 2020 census — even if it did not violate the Constitution itself — was unlawful for a multitude of independent reasons and must be set aside,” U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman wrote in his ruling. “To conclude otherwise and let Secretary Ross’s decision stand would undermine the proposition — central to the rule of law — that ours is a government of laws, not of men.”

The issue will likely end up in the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and, ultimately, the Supreme Court.

Cummings said the oversight committee requested documents on the issue three times — in April, June and August — but the Commerce Department withheld some of the documents.


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