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Saturday, September 22, 2018

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross Will NOT Have to Testify About His Role in the Citizenship Question--UPDATED

The issue of whether or not a citizenship question will be on the 2020 Census has been a hot topic ever since it was officially pushed onto the Census Bureau back in March of this year, as I discussed at the time. Back then the story from Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross was that he was being told by the Justice Department that this was necessary in order to keep track of violations of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. That sounded a bit suspicious to most of us, and it also sounded suspicious to a federal judge who has now ordered Wilbur Ross to come to court and be deposed under oath about what really is going on. CNN had the story today:
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross must sit for a deposition in a lawsuit against his department over its decision to include a question about citizenship in the 2020 Census, a federal judge ruled Friday. 
The Commerce Department announced in March that the question of citizenship will again be included in the 2020 Census, which the administration said was necessary to enforce the Voting Rights Act.
New York, along with other states and cities, filed a lawsuit in April to block the government's decision to include the question, arguing it would intimidate immigrants and decrease participation in the census.
US District Judge Jesse Furman of the Southern District of New York said Ross's deposition, limited to four hours, is needed "because Secretary Ross was personally and directly involved in the decision, and the unusual process leading to it, to an unusual degree."
Information presented to the Court apparently indicated that the idea might well have been Ross's and that he had been quietly pushing it for a year before the announcement was made in March that he was being told by the Justice Department to order the Census Bureau to include the question on the 2020 Census. With any luck this will help Congress decide that this is a bad idea--as the rest of us have known since it first came up.

UPDATE:  Oops, no, it seems he won't be deposed after all. As NPR reported this morning, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled against that idea. However, the door was not closed completely on this issue:
The administration's request to temporarily block other lower court orders for the lawsuits, however, were not successful. The Supreme Court is allowing the plaintiffs' attorneys to question Justice Department official John Gore, who leads the department's civil rights division that the administration says needs the citizenship question to better enforce the Voting Right Act. Document requests from the plaintiffs can also move forward as the start date for the first potential trial over the citizenship question draws closer.
The case against putting the citizenship question on the 2020 Census short-form is currently scheduled to go to trial on the 5th of November.  

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