Immigrant Advocates Don’t Buy Secretary Ross’ Testimony on Citizenship Question

NEW YORK, NY, March 15, 2019 – Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, voluntarily and without a subpoena. After Secretary Ross refused to give definitive answers to several questions of the committee, Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings asked Ross to produce priority documents and answers to the questions by Tuesday, March 19th 2019. Chairman Cummings noted that if the Secretary did not by that date, he would be forced to issue a subpoena.

His testimony comes exactly one year after he lied about the origins of the request to include a citizenship question on the 2020 Census, and one month prior to when the U.S. Supreme Court will hear The Department of Commerce v. New York State et al.

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Steven Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition, issued the following statement:

“Secretary Wilbur Ross spent his entire testimony deflecting questions to conceal the truth – that he engineered the citizenship question with notorious white supremacists Steve Bannon and Kris Kobach, and has been caught red-handed in a web of nefarious lies. The citizenship question is another cruel tool in the Trump administration’s arsenal meant to advance a racist agenda, intimidate immigrant communities, and exclude marginalized voices from our democracy. We applaud the leadership of the Committee Chairman and our New York congressional committee members to continue pursuing the facts and hold Secretary Ross accountable for his lies. We will continue our fight to remove the citizenship question in the Supreme Court, the halls of Congress, and the streets.”

Background

On January 15th, 2019, Judge Jesse Furman in the Southern District of New York ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit New York State et al. v the Department of Commerce, blocking the Trump administration’s reckless attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. The ruling stated that Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross violated the Administrative Procedure Act in his proposal to add a citizenship question.

The Justice Department appealed within days to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, and on January 21st, 2019 brought an expedited appeal to  the U.S. Supreme Court.

The New York Immigration Coalition filed a federal lawsuit in the Southern District of New York in conjunction with the ACLU and four other immigrant rights groups against the administration’s attempt to target immigrant communities, challenging the addition of the citizenship question by adding an intentional discrimination claim. The lawsuit argues that adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census violates the Constitution and reverses seven decades of precedent without a factual basis.

On April 3rd, the New York Attorney General’s office filed a lawsuit – New York v. Dept of Commerce – in the Southern District of New York to stop the Commerce Department from demanding citizenship information on the 2020 Census. The lawsuit argues that adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census violates the law and reverses seven decades of precedent without a factual basis.

Currently 18 states plus D.C., a number of cities and counties, and the bipartisan U.S. Conference of Mayors have joined the New York Attorney General’s lawsuit. On May 25, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. Judge Jesse Furman on July 3rd stated it was “unlikely he would dismiss the case in its entirety” and granted the AG’s office request for additional discovery, resulting in the federal government recently releasing new documents.

On June 6th, the New York Immigration Coalition filed a related federal lawsuit in the Southern District of New York in conjunction with the ACLU and four other immigrant rights groups. The suit challenges the Trump administration’s plan to include a citizenship question on the 2020 census, by adding an intentional discrimination claim.

On July 26th, Judge Furman ruled against the Trump administration’s request to dismiss New York v. Department of Commerce, and will allow the lawsuit to move forward.

In discovery, the trial uncovered that Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross consulted Steve Bannon, former White House Chief Strategist and known white supremacist, and therefore revealed the Administration’s racial bias behind adding the question. Ross previously claimed that the request to add the citizenship question spawned from the DOJ, but later backtracked that he and his staff made the initial request.

Secretary Ross claims that the intended purpose of the citizenship question is to improve enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. However, a citizenship question is expected to significantly reduce self-reporting rates, effectively erasing hard-to-count communities, depriving them of federal resources, and stripping them of fair representation in our democracy.

The New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) is an umbrella policy & advocacy organization that represents over 200 immigrant and refugee rights groups throughout New York. www.nyic.org