Congressman Gonzalez Urges Attorney General Sessions to Reconsider Changes to U.S. Census Questionnaire
WASHINGTON – This week, Congressman Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15) sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions urging him not to proceed with a U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) request to reinstate a question regarding citizenship in the 2020 Census questionnaire. On December 12, 2017, the DOJ’s Justice Management Division wrote to Dr. Ron Jarmin, Acting Director of the U.S. Census Bureau, asking that the Bureau include the question in the questionnaire for the Decennial Census. The DOJ letter deemed the question necessary as a means of enforcing Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
“While I support efforts to expand voting rights, prevent voter fraud, and protect against discrimination at the polls, I worry that adding this question could have unforeseen costs and consequences on areas with low response rates, strong immigrant communities, and a history of being undercounted,” Congressman Gonzalez said. “I call on Attorney General Sessions and Acting Director Jarmin to reconsider moving forward with this change and welcome new proposals that advance voting rights and allow for an accurate and successful census in 2020.”
Recently, the Census Bureau announced plans to open an Area Census Office in Hidalgo County in summer 2019. This announcement came in response to Congressman Gonzalez’s request for a local office in September 2017. The Area Census Office would work to ensure that people in the Rio Grande Valley are accurately counted in the upcoming 2020 Census.
Congressman Gonzalez is committed to working with the DOJ, the Census Bureau, and stakeholders at the state and local level to increase participation in and ensure the 2020 Census runs in the best possible way.
Below is the full letter:
January 9, 2018
Attorney General of the United States
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001
Dear Attorney General Sessions:
I write to express my concerns with a letter the Justice Management Division of the Department of Justice mailed to the Census Bureau last month. The letter in question proposed reinstating a citizenship question that has not been a part of the census questionnaire for quite some time. The change was recommended under the guise of voter fraud prevention, but could ultimately have detrimental effects on the 2020 Census.
As the representative for an area known for low response rates, a strong immigrant community, and a history of being undercounted, I worry that this question may have unforeseen consequences on participation in and implementation of the Decennial Census in my district. Reintroducing this question could incite fear among immigrants and potentially deter them from participating. Furthermore, this change would represent a step backward from the recent collaboration between my office, Hidalgo County, and the Census Bureau to address past inaccuracies and better prepare for the Decennial Census. I am also concerned this sudden change could increase the costs of the Census and/or divert much needed funds from efforts intended to improve accuracy.
I am more than willing to support legislation and rules that advance the voting rights and security of Americans, but I truly believe this change would do more harm than good. The reintroduction of this citizenship question is an indirect attack on our immigrant communities, and on historically undercounted communities like those in Hidalgo County. I stand ready to work with the Department of Justice and the Census Bureau to address your concerns, increase participation, and ensure the 2020 Census runs in the best possible way.
Thank you for your attention to this matter. I look forward to hearing from you soon. Please feel free to reach out to me to discuss this matter further at (202) 225-2531.
Member of Congress