After a two-year legal battle by former President Donald Trump and his administration to keep emails and memos hidden about the attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, the House Oversight and Reform Committee released the documents Wednesday.
NPR reports that the newly discovered information shows a secret plan by Trump and his team to try to keep undocumented immigrants from being counted in the 2020 census.
Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York, who chairs the House oversight committee, said in a statement: "Today's Committee memo pulls back the curtain on this shameful conduct and shows clearly how the Trump administration secretly tried to manipulate the census for political gain while lying to the public and Congress about their goals. … It is clear that legislative reforms are needed to prevent any future illegal or unconstitutional efforts to interfere with the census and chip away at our democracy."
Thanks to a 2019 Supreme Court ruling, Trump’s hopes of adding the question “Is this person a citizen of the United States?” to the census came crashing down.
The Trump administration had attempted to use the Voting Rights Act (VRA) as cover, with the unfounded claim that “legal arguments that the Founding Fathers intended for the apportionment count to be based on legal inhabitants.”
"[HR 8326] basically moves to make sure that the census is fair and accurate, that it is removed from political influence and that the decisions made are made on science and not politics," Maloney explained to NPR.
One of the key players behind adding the citizenship question to the census was former Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who oversaw the Census Bureau.
Ross seemed to be hellbent on adding it to the form. But like all things in the Trump world, adding this particular question was unprecedented. Since the nation’s first count in 1790, based on the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, all Americans—citizens and noncitizens—have been counted on the form.
During his testimony in Congress, Ross alleged that the plan to add the question was based “solely” on a letter from the Department of Justice (DOJ) asking for more information on citizenship that would be used to protect racial and language minorities and enforce the VRA. However, as NPR reports, Ross was the person who initiated the DOJ’s need for more data.
“Sec. Ross has reviewed concerns and thinks DOJ would have a legitimate use of data for VRA purposes,” former Commerce Department attorney James Uthmeier wrote to John Gore, a Trump appointee at the DOJ.
In fact, an email written on September 17 from Uthmeier to Earl Comstock, another Trump appointee, indicated a need to keep their nefarious plan secret.
“Ultimately, everyone is in agreement with our approach to move slowly, carefully, and deliberately so as to not expose us to litigation risk,” Uthmeier wrote.
Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.