Menéndez, Booker y Colegas Presionan a la Subsecretaria de Comercio sobre la Inclusión de la Pregunta de Ciudadanía en el Censo

Menéndez, Booker y Colegas Presionan a la Subsecretaria de Comercio sobre la Inclusión de la Pregunta de Ciudadanía en el Censo

Los Senadores solicitan información sobre inconsistencias entre el testimonio del Secretario Wilbur Ross ante el Congreso y recientes documentos

    
WASHINGTON, D.C. — El Senador Bob Menéndez (D-N.J.), el Latino de más alto rango en el Congreso de los Estados Unidos, se unió a un grupo de colegas para enviar una carta a la Subsecretaria de Comercio y nominada, Karen Dunn Kelley, solicitando información sobre su papel en el proceso de la decisión de agregar una pregunta de ciudadanía al Censo de 2020. Específicamente, los Senadores están solicitando más información sobre la discrepancia entre el testimonio del Secretario Ross ante el Congreso, en donde afirmó que el Departamento de Justicia solicitó la inclusión de una pregunta sobre ciudadanía y documentos recientemente publicados que muestran que la propuesta realmente se originó en el Departamento de Comercio bajo su liderazgo.

“El mes pasado, debido a una demanda federal, el Departamento de Comercio dio a conocer varios documentos que revelaron incoherencias entre el testimonio del Secretario Ross ante el Congreso y el orden de los eventos que conllevaron a la decisión de incluir la pregunta de la ciudadanía,” escribieron los Senadores. “Estas discrepancias son profundamente preocupantes y la información adicional será útil para comprender su papel en la decisión de agregar la pregunta sobre la ciudadanía”.

“Durante los últimos 12 meses usted ha trabajado en estrecha colaboración con el Secretario Ross. Como una alta funcionaria, usted ha supervisado el trabajo en el Departamento de Comercio y en la Oficina del Censo, mientras las agencias desarrollaban y agregaban la pregunta sobre la ciudadanía. De hecho, los documentos muestran que usted ayudó al Secretario Ross en el desarrollo de la pregunta de la ciudadanía en múltiples etapas, incluyendo la evaluación de varias opciones de redacción; participación en reuniones con los interesados; y el desarrollo de un borrador de política,” continuaron los Senadores.

Los documentos publicados por el Departamento de Comercio a fines del mes de julio indican que la pregunta de la ciudadanía fue considerada en marzo de 2017, nueve meses antes de la solicitud del Departamento de Justicia y de que el Secretario Ross proporcionara su testimonio ante el Congreso, lo que plantea interrogantes sobre cuándo le Subsecretaria Kelley se dio cuenta de la verdadera dinámica entre el Departamento de Comercio y el Departamento de Justicia con respecto a incluir la pregunta de la ciudadanía en el Censo de 2020.

“Los documentos publicados el mes pasado indican que, bajo su liderazgo, el Departamento de Comercio decidió agregar una pregunta sobre ciudadanía que costará a los contribuyentes al menos $ 27.5 millones adicionales. Una gran cantidad de expertos, incluidos seis exdirectores de la Oficina del Censo, advirtieron al Departamento de Comercio que la pregunta de la ciudadanía deprimirá las respuestas del público en general y reducirá la calidad de los datos recopilados,” concluyeron los Senadores, antes de pedirle a Kelley que les proporcione respuestas específicas para aclarar su proceso de toma de decisiones y su papel en el desarrollo de esta política a más tardar el 4 de septiembre de 2018.

A principios de este año, el Senador Menéndez y otros colegas introdujeron el Proyecto de Ley Cada Persona Cuenta (S. 2580) lo cual prohibiría que la Oficina del Censo de EEUU haga preguntas sobre ciudadanía o el estatus migratorio de una persona. Este proyecto de ley cuenta con el apoyo de National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO), SEIU, National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Common Cause, NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc, and the National Council of Jewish Women.

El texto complete de la carta puede encontrarse aquí y a continuación.

August 21, 2018 

The Honorable Karen Dunn Kelley
Under Secretary for Economic Affairs
U.S. Department of Commerce
101 Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20230

 

Dear Under Secretary Kelley:

We are writing to seek more information about your role and actions regarding the inclusion of a citizenship question on the 2020 Census. Last month, due to a federal lawsuit, the Department of Commerce (“Commerce”) produced several documents revealing gaping inconsistencies between Secretary Wilbur Ross’ testimony to Congress and the actual course of events that led to the decision to include the question. These discrepancies are deeply troubling, and additional information will be helpful towards understanding your role in the decision to add the citizenship question.

You arrived at Commerce well before the decision to add the citizenship question was finalized in March 2018. In August 2017 you began your role as Under Secretary for Economic Affairs, leading the Economics and Statistics Administration (“ESA”) and overseeing the Department of Commerce’s statistical programs, including the U.S. Census Bureau.[1] In addition to your duties as Under Secretary, in November 2017 you became Secretary Ross’ second-in-command as Acting Deputy Secretary of Commerce.[2] On June 4, 2018, you were officially nominated to the position of Deputy Secretary of Commerce.[3]

This entire year Secretary Ross has maintained it was a request from the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) that prompted the inclusion of the citizenship question. When asked during a March 20, 2018, House Appropriations Committee hearing whether anyone else had directed him to add such a question, Secretary Ross stated “We are responding solely to [DOJ’s] request.”[4] Two days later in sworn testimony at a House Ways and Means Committee hearing, Secretary Ross stated the “[DOJ], as you know, initiated the request for inclusion of the citizenship question....Because it is from the [DOJ], we are taking it very seriously, and we will issue a fulsome documentation of whatever conclusion we finally come to.”

A few days later, in a March 26, 2018, memorandum addressed to you, Secretary Ross announced the inclusion of a citizenship question on the 2020 Census, citing the need “to provide complete and accurate data in response to the [DOJ] request”.[5] In his memo to you Secretary Ross states, matter-of-factly (“Dear Under Secretary Kelley, As you know…”), that the citizenship question was initiated by a December 12, 2017, DOJ request for census block level citizenship voting age population data to be used for DOJ enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. Secretary Ross later repeated this justification at a May 10, 2018, Senate Appropriations Committee hearing. When Senator Leahy asked him “Why this sudden interest [in the citizenship question] when the department that’s supposed to enforce violations doesn’t see any problems?” Ross testified “Well, the Justice Department is the one who made the request of us.”[6]

None of this appears to be true. The documents released by the Department of Commerce in late July indicate the citizenship question was considered as early as March 2017—some nine months before the date Secretary Ross provided in his testimony.[7] Rather than DOJ “initiat[ing] the request for inclusion of the citizenship question”, the documents show the request was, in fact, brought to DOJ officials by Secretary Ross and other staff at the Department of Commerce.[8] This outreach to DOJ was prompted by political operatives in and around the administration with a partisan agenda for the 2020 Census, in an apparent effort to create a public record that met at least one of the Census Bureau’s criteria for collecting data in the census or American Community Survey.[9] For months Secretary Ross, under oath, repeatedly presented a sequence of events that simply did not occur. Only recently, weeks after the litigation forced Commerce to produce compromising documents challenging his timeline, did Secretary Ross acknowledge his sequence was entirely backwards.[10]

For the last 12 months you have worked closely with Secretary Ross. As a top official, you have overseen the work at Commerce and the U.S. Census Bureau while the agencies developed and added the citizenship question. Indeed, documents show that you assisted Secretary Ross in the development of the citizenship question across multiple stages, including: the evaluation of various wording options; participation in meetings with stakeholders; and the development of draft policy.[11] Given your proximity to Secretary Ross and your leadership role, I would like to know when you became aware of the true dynamics between Commerce and DOJ regarding the citizenship question.

To be sure, during your July 26, 2017, confirmation hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee you acknowledged that the mission of the ESA, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, and the U.S. Census is to “serve as the leading source of quality data about the nation’s people and economy” and stated that you “know how to serve that mandate by putting the people, process and procedures in place to create an accurate product.”[12] You also described the work required for “a high quality 2020 Census” as your “highest priority” and committed no fewer than three times during the hearing to “count every individual.”[13] Finally, and most importantly, you specifically committed to resist political pressure from the administration or elsewhere to compromise the integrity of the department’s data and economic analysis.[14]

However, the documents released last month indicate that, under your leadership, Commerce decided to add a citizenship question that will cost taxpayers at least an additional $27.5 million.[15] A host of experts—including six former Census Bureau directors—have warned Commerce the citizenship question will depress the responsiveness of the general public, and lower the quality of data collected.[16] Indeed, in January 2018 the Census Bureau’s Chief Scientist advised you and other senior staff that the citizenship question would bring about “major potential quality and cost disruptions” for the 2020 Census.[17] He also recommended less costly and less disruptive alternatives for using Census data to shore up DOJ’s Voting Rights Act enforcement.[18] All of those options were ignored in favor of adding the citizenship question; and the documents establish this decision was largely political.

To fully understand your decision-making process and your role in the development of this policy, we ask that you provide the following information no later than September 4, 2018:

1)         A complete description of any role you may have had in Commerce or Census Bureau recommendations, decisions, or analyses related to including a citizenship question on the 2020 Census. Please include a list of the meetings you attended related to these topics, and the attendees of these meetings.

2)         All emails and other documents related to your communications with Commerce, ESA, Census Bureau, DHS, or DOJ officials regarding the development and implementation of the policy.

3)         Any final or draft recommendations, responses to questions the Secretary or anyone else in the Commerce Department posed to Census Bureau staff, letters to members of Congress, or talking points related to the policy, and any correspondences related to the drafts.

4)         All emails relating to your involvement with the citizenship question, including management and cost assessment reviews.

Thank you, and we look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

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