Census Bureau’s chief scientist warned secretary in memo against adding citizenship question

Census Bureau’s chief scientist warned secretary in memo against adding citizenship question
© Greg Nash

An internal memo from the chief scientist of the U.S. Census Bureau warned Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossHouse chairman threatens to find Justice official in contempt of Congress DOJ rejects Oversight subpoena unless agency lawyer is permitted to attend Third judge blocks citizenship question from 2020 census MORE against adding a question on citizenship to the 2020 census.

John Abowd, the agency’s chief scientist and associate director for research and methodology, wrote in the January memo that adding a citizenship question would be "very costly, harms the quality of the census count, and would use substantially less accurate citizenship status data than are available from administrative sources."

The document also states that adding the questions would create "major potential quality and cost disruptions" for the 2020 census.

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The memo does say that the cost of adding the question would be minimal and would create a "direct measure of self-reported citizenship for the whole population."

However, Abowd’s overall argument is against adding the question, stating that "citizenship status is misreported at a very high rate for non-citizens."

CNN reported that Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee released the internal memo on Saturday.

Ross said in a statement that the "the administrative record" shows that the administration strongly considered the “legal, policy, and program considerations prior to reinstating the citizenship question."

“I am confident that after months of review and consideration, this administrative record proves that the return of the citizenship question to the Decennial Census is the right move that will allow our country to have the most complete and accurate census information available,” Ross said in the statement.

Other documents released by the Justice Department on Friday show that anti-illegal immigration advocates, including Kansas secretary of state and former head of President TrumpDonald John TrumpButtigieg on Mueller report: 'Politically, I'm not sure it will change much' Sarah Sanders addresses false statements detailed in Mueller report: 'A slip of the tongue' Trump to visit Japan in May to meet with Abe, new emperor MORE’s since-disbanded voter fraud commission Kris Kobach, advocated for the citizenship question.

Kobach wrote in a July 2017 email to a Ross aide that he had lobbied for the question “on the direction of Steve BannonStephen (Steve) Kevin BannonScaramucci: Mr. President, the press is not the enemy of the people MSNBC to relaunch 'On Assignment' series with foreign correspondent Richard Engel Corporate self-regulation is failing MORE,” who was serving as White House chief strategist at the time, The New York Times reported.

The Trump administration faced major pushback after it announced earlier this year that it would add the question on citizenship to the 2020 census.

Attorneys general in several states sued almost immediately after the announcement, arguing that adding the question would cause immigrants to not respond to the census and throw off the survey’s data, leading to less federal funding for those states.

Census data is used to determine the allocation of federal funds for states.