May 23, 2017

Harris, Carper Question Census Bureau on Removal of “Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity” from 2020 Census

Senators to Census Bureau: "... it is critical that the Census Bureau's process to include subjects to fairly and accurately count all Americans is impartial and free from undue interference."


WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senators Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.), both members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, sent a letter to United States Census Bureau Director John H. Thompson requesting more information on the Census Bureau's processes it uses to include subjects fairly and accurately in the 2020 Census and American Community Survey (ACS).

According to the Census Bureau, it received requests in 2016 by several federal agencies to consider adding Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) as a subject to the 2020 Census and ACS.The Census Bureau halted its evaluation of whether SOGI should be included in the 2020 Census and ACS after the Department of Justice sent a letter to rescind its earlier request to include SOGI. In the letter, the Senator's state that these communications raise concerns about the role of the DOJ and its influence on government data collection.

"As you have stated in the past, complete Census data is critical 'to meet a wide range of federal needs-from providing apportionment and redistricting data as part of our representative democracy, to helping distribute more than $400 billion in federal funds annually,'"the senators wrote."This is why it is critical that the Census Bureau's process to include subjects to fairly and accurately count all Americans is impartial and free from undue interference."

The full letter can be found here or below:


May 22, 2017

The Honorable John H. Thompson

Director

United States Census Bureau
4600 Silver Hill Road
Washington, DC 20233

Dear Director Thompson:

On March 28, 2017 the U.S. Census Bureau submitted"Subjects Planned for the 2020 Census and American Community Survey"to Congress. In the press release announcing the submission, the Census Bureau indicated that no new subject would be added to the 2020 Census or to the American Community Survey (ACS).[1] The copy of the "Subjects Planned for the 2020 Census and American Community Survey" submitted to Congress, however, did include a new subject in the appendix of the report: sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI).[2]The Census Bureau subsequently corrected this error by sending out a new copy of the report that does not include SOGI andclarified that this error arose because the Census Bureau had earlier considered adding SOGI as a subject to the 2020 Census and ACS.[3]

In briefings with Senate staff[4]after the release of the subjects, Census Bureau staff confirmed that the interagency process utilized by the Census Bureau and the Office of Management and Budget had considered adding SOGI as a subject to the 2020 Census and ACS, due to requests submitted by several federal agencies.

Enclosed are letters that detail the processby which SOGI was considered as a potential new subject to the Decennial Census and ACS.According to these letters, the Census Bureau received requests in 2016 from the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Department of Housing and Development (HUD), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to include SOGI on the 2020 Census and ACS. In particular, DOJ's November 4, 2016 request to the Census Bureau to include SOGI outlined the legal authority that supports the necessity for DOJ to collect this information. Based on these requests, the Census Bureau began its evaluation of whether SOGI should be added as a new topic.[5]

On March 7, 2017, however, DOJ sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Commerce rescinding its request to include SOGI.Specifically, DOJ stated that "it was unable to reaffirm its request of November 4, 2016."[6]As a result, the Census Bureau halted its evaluation of whether SOGI should be included in the 2020 Census and ACS, despite DOJ's previously clearly articulated need in November. These communications raise concerns about the role of the DOJ and its influence on government data collection.

As you have stated in the past, complete Census data is critical "to meet a wide range of federal needs-from providing apportionment and redistricting data as part of our representative democracy, to helping distribute more than $400 billion in federal funds annually."[7]This is why it is critical that the Census Bureau's process to include subjects to fairly and accurately count all Americans is impartial and free from undue interference. Therefore, in order to better understand all of the factors involved in this matter, I request that you provide the following information, as well as any supporting documentation:

  1. All communications within the Census Bureau or between the Census Bureau and the following agencies that relate to the addition of SOGI as a new subject to the 2020 Census and ACS, including, but not limited to, emails, memoranda, and meeting minutes:
  2. The Department of Justice
  3. The Department of Commerce
  4. The Office of Management and Budget
  5. The Department of Health and Human Services
  6. The Environmental Protection Agency
  7. The Department of Housing and Urban Development
  1. An explanation of the process by which the Census Bureau accepts and reviews requests from federal agencies to include subject(s) in the Decennial Census and the ACS.
  1. An explanation of the Census Bureau's process by which it accepts and reviews requests from Congress to include subject(s) on the Decennial Census and the ACS.
  1. An explanation of the Census Bureau's threshold for subject inclusion in the Decennial Census and the ACS.

We request that you provide this information no later than June 19, 2017 and look forward to your prompt response to this inquiry.

Sincerely,

Tom Carper Kamala D. Harris

Ranking Member U.S. Senator

Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations

cc: The Honorable Rob Portman

Chairman

Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations

The Honorable Jeff Sessions

Attorney General

U.S. Department of Justice

The Honorable Ben Carson

Secretary

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

The Honorable Thomas E. Price

Secretary

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

The Honorable Scott Pruitt

Administrator

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

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