May 31, 2019

Harris, Colleagues Call For Investigations Into Trump Administration Efforts to Undercut Minority Communities, Politicize 2020 Census

Senators Are Urging Inspectors General at the Departments of Justice and Commerce to Review Internal Efforts to Hide Political Motive in Adding Citizenship Question 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) on Friday joined Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI), along with 12 of their colleagues, in calling for the Departments of Justice and Commerce to launch internal investigations after new evidence came to light revealing deeply partisan and undemocratic motives behind the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. In a letter to the inspectors general of each department, the senators raised concerns that government officials had concealed the role of a partisan political operative who pushed the Trump administration to add the citizenship question so that immigrants and people of color living in the United States would be undercounted.

“[T]his new evidence not only contradicts [Commerce Secretary Wilbur] Ross’s assertion that the addition of the citizenship question would assist in Voting Rights Act enforcement, but also implicates officials in the Justice and Commerce Departments in an effort to hide from the Congress and the public the true rationale for this question,” the senators wrote. “This reported misconduct warrants an immediate review by your offices.”

In addition to Harris and Schatz, the letter is signed by U.S. Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Patty Murray (D-WA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Jack Reed (D-RI), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).

The full text of the letter is available here and below:

Dear Inspectors General Gustafson and Horowitz:

We write to urge you to review the actions taken by both the Departments of Justice and Commerce to hide the contribution of a deeply partisan political operative in the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, as reported in the press.  Specifically, we urge you to review the following:

(a)   In depositions and congressional interviews, Justice and Commerce Department officials failed to disclose the substantive public policy role of a political operative, Dr. Thomas Hofeller, in adding the citizenship question to the 2020 Census; and

(b)   In concealing the contribution of Dr. Hofeller, Justice and Commerce Department officials purposely obscured the impermissible racial and partisan motivations for adding a citizenship question—to be “advantageous to Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites” and to “clearly be a disadvantage to the Democrats”—in both the Justice Department’s December 2017 letter requesting the citizenship question and the Commerce Department’s March 2018 memorandum adding the question.

Taken together this new evidence not only contradicts Secretary Ross’s assertion that the addition of the citizenship question would assist in Voting Rights Act enforcement, but also implicates officials in the Justice and Commerce Departments in an effort to hide from the Congress and the public the true rationale for this question.  This reported misconduct warrants an immediate review by your offices.

We appreciate your attention to this matter, and we look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

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