Cummings Issues Statement on Court Ruling Against Trump Administration Citizenship Question

Jan 15, 2019
Press Release

Washington, D.C. (Jan. 15, 2019)—Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, issued the following statement after a U.S. District Court Judge ruled against the Trump Administration’s plan to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census and concluded that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross violated federal law:

“The court’s ruling today is stunning—it concludes that Secretary Wilbur Ross not only violated the law when he added a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, but that he also actively concealed the true basis for his decision. The Constitution requires the Census to count every single person in our country, and Secretary Ross’s actions raise grave concerns about the Trump Administration’s covert efforts to distort a fair and accurate count.”

Key Quotes from the Opinion:

Secretary Ross “failed to consider several important aspects of the problem; alternately ignored, cherry-picked, or badly misconstrued the evidence in the record before him; acted irrationally both in light of that evidence and his own stated decisional criteria; and failed to justify significant departures from past policies and practices — a veritable smorgasbord of classic, clear-cut APA violations.” (page 8)

“[T]he evidence establishes that Secretary Ross’s stated rationale, to promote VRA enforcement, was pretextual — in other words, that he announced his decision in a manner that concealed its true basis rather than explaining it, as the APA required him to do.” (page 8)

“In arriving at his decision as he did, Secretary Ross violated the law. And in doing so with respect to the census — ‘one of the most critical constitutional functions our Federal Government performs,’ 1998 Appropriations Act, § 209(a)(5), 111 Stat. at 2480-81, and a ‘mainstay of our democracy,’ Franklin, 505 U.S. at 818 (Stevens, J., concurring) — Secretary Ross violated the public trust.” (page 11)

A January 19, 2018, memorandum from the Census Bureau to Secretary Ross “explained bluntly that adding a citizenship question to the census ‘is very costly, harms the quality of the census count, and would use substantially less accurate citizenship status data than are available from administrative sources.’” (page 38)

Efforts by Secretary Ross’s deputy chief of staff to “lobby DOJ and DHS officials” on the citizenship question “make clear that the goal of Secretary Ross and his aides was to launder their request through another agency — that is, to obtain cover for a decision that they had already made — and that the reasons underlying any request from another agency were secondary, if not irrelevant.” (page 99)

“Secretary Ross’s decision was also arbitrary and capricious because, in multiple ways, it represented a dramatic departure from the standards and practices that have long governed administration of the census, and he failed to justify those departures. … Making matters worse, not only did Secretary Ross fail to justify these departures, but he and his aides took active steps to downplay, if not conceal, them from scrutiny.” (pages 236-237)

Link to Full Opinion: https://www.courtlistener.com/recap/gov.uscourts.nysd.491254/gov.uscourts.nysd.491254.574.0.pdf

116th Congress