Congressional Democrats are calling on the Trump administration to explain how adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census complies with a federal data collection law.
Sens. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperOvernight Energy & Environment — Lummis holds up Biden EPA picks GOP senator blocks Biden EPA nominees over coal plant decision Biden raises vehicle mileage standards, reversing Trump rollback MORE (D-Del.) and Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisHarris invokes MLK in voting rights push, urges Senate to 'do its job' Voting rights is a constitutional right: Failure is not an option Left laughs off floated changes to 2024 ticket MORE (D-Calif.), along with Rep. Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - Manchin says no; White House fires back House Democrats find drug companies 'unjustified' in price hikes Your must-read holiday book list from members of Congress MORE (D-Md.) and 31 other Democrats, sent a letter to Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) Administrator Neomi Rao and Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossCensus memo notes 'unprecedented' Trump administration meddling: report Holding defiant Trump witnesses to account, Jan. 6 committee carries out Congress's constitutional role Bannon's subpoena snub sets up big decision for Biden DOJ MORE questioning whether the Paperwork Reduction Act was violated.
The law requires federal agencies to evaluate the potential burden that collecting particular information will place on the public and obtain approval from the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which oversees OIRA, before proceeding.
According to the OMB, information requested from 10 or more members of the public must be cleared by the agency.
“The PRA requires the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to review proposed information collections and ensure that agencies are minimizing the burden on the public,” the lawmakers wrote.
“It requires OMB to ensure that the information collection maximizes practical utility and public benefit and — critical in the case of the 2020 Census — protects the integrity, objectivity, impartiality, utility and confidentiality of collected statistical information.”
The Department of Commerce approved a request in March from the Department of Justice (DOJ) to add a question about citizenship status to the 2020 census. The DOJ says it needs the information to better enforce the Voting Rights Act.
But Democrats and civil rights groups fear the question will scare people in immigrant communities from responding to the census, skewing the numbers.
“Numerous experts, organizations, and local and state governments have voiced concern about the addition of a citizenship question and how it may harm the overall accuracy of the census,” the lawmakers wrote. “This includes six former Census Bureau directors, who have warned that ‘adding an untested question on citizenship status at this late point would put the accuracy of the enumeration and success of the census in all communities at grave risk.' ”
Democrats are demanding answers to eight questions, starting with when the Commerce Department plans to initiate the first public comment period by publishing a notice in the Federal Register, as required by the law.