The following announcement was posted to the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies mailing list by Jan Meisels Allen:
As previously reported on the IAJGS Records Access Alert, the addition to add a question about citizenship to the 2020 US Census by the Commerce Department has resulted in at least six lawsuits. The largest lawsuit, which includes more than two dozen states and cities is before US Federal District Court Southern District of New York, Judge Jesse Furman in Manhattan (New York City, NY) who ruled in late July that the case may move forward. Judge Furman also agreed to have Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, and Acting Assistant Attorney General John Grove for the Civil Rights Division of the US Department of Justice be deposed as to why Secretary Ross added the question. There is some question whether Secretary Ross did it at the request of the Department of Justice, as he testified before Congress, or he had wanted to do this all along based on comments he made almost a year before the request to add the citizenship question. Then in late September the Justice Department representing the White House filed a motion to stay discovery pending Supreme Court Review.
On October 9 Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg put the depositions of Commerce Secretary Ross and Acting Assistant Attorney General John Grove for the Civil Rights Division of the US Department of Justice on hold while the court further considered the government’s request to shield the officials from questioning.
However, earlier on October 12 Commerce Secretary changed his story as told to Congress in March 2018 regarding the citizenship question. Now the Justice Department is looking at whether Secretary Ross told the truth to Congress. Evidently Steve Bannon, who at the time was an advisor to President Trump, contacted the Commerce Secretary in the of Spring 2017 and asked the Secretary to talk with Kansas Secretary of State Kris Koback, who was leading the Administration’s review of alleged voter fraud, about including a citizenship question on the census. Koback is now the Republican candidate for governor of Kansas. Ross now also remembers speaking with Attorney General Jeff Sessions. When Secretary Ross testified before Congress he was asked if anyone in the White House discussed with him or his team about adding the citizenship question, to which Secretary Ross said,” I am not aware of any such.” In another hearing Secretary Ross said , “The Department of Justice, as you know, initiated the request for inclusion of the citizenship question.” Commerce Secretary Ross now recalls discussing citizenship question with Steve Bannon.
On October 11 New York and other states filed a brief with the Supreme Court urging the Justices to allow Commerce Secretary Ross’ deposition. The challengers believe that while Ross has said the added question was necessary to comply with the Voting Rights Act, the real intention was to reduce the representation of immigrant populations. They argue that the question will negatively impact the response rate for noncitizens, who may be too afraid to come forward. The trial is set to start November 5. The Justice Department has asked the Supreme Court to reverse the lower courts and block the deposition.
A ruling by the Supreme Court whether the depositions should proceed is expected shortly.
To access the previous postings about the 202 US Census see the IAJGS Records Access Alert archives at: http://lists.iajgs.org/mailman/private/records-access-alerts. You must be registered to access the archives. To register for the IAJGS Records Access Alert go to: http://lists.iajgs.org/mailman/listinfo/records-access-alerts. You will receive an email response that you have to reply to or the subscription will not be finalized. It is required to include your organization affiliation (genealogy organization, etc.)
Jan Meisels Allen
Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee