Congressional Democrats move to stop U.S. Census citizenship question

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democrats in the U.S. Congress on Wednesday were moving ahead with legislation to prevent the Trump administration from adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, following a court decision this week blocking inclusion of such information.

Representative Carolyn Maloney, a senior Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, told reporters that she is re-introducing her bill, which was ignored by Republicans in 2017-2018 when they controlled the House of Representatives.

With the Democrats takeover of the House this year and the panel that oversees the decennial census, Maloney said she hoped that her “Census IDEA Act” would advance early in 2019.

Under Maloney’s legislation, the Commerce Department for the 2020 census and beyond could not insert any major new provisions or questions without first researching and testing them for at least three years. The changes would also have to be submitted to Congress for review.

On Tuesday, a federal judge invalidated the Trump administration’s move to include a citizenship question in the 2020 population count. The Justice Department is expected to appeal the ruling, with the case thought likely to reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Every person must be counted,” Maloney said. She added that she was gathering support from House members for a letter that would be sent to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, urging him to not seek an appeal of the court ruling.

Also on Wednesday, House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Elijah Cummings told reporters that Ross will testify before his panel in early March. That hearing is expected to touch on several issues, including planning for the 2020 census.

Democrats and civil rights groups accused the administration of inserting a citizenship question onto the survey, for the first time since 1950, to discourage immigrants and Latinos from participating in the census.

The census, required by the U.S. Constitution, provides the basis for states’ representation in the House and their share of federal funds for an array of programs.

Democrats fear that the citizenship question would result in census data that over the next decade would mainly benefit Republicans in many congressional districts by undercounting minorities and immigrants.

Democratic Representative Jesus “Chuy” Carcia told reporters the citizenship question would likely discourage many “mixed status” families whose members have varying immigration or citizenship status from answering census questions.

Ross argued that the government needed citizenship data to help enforce election law.

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