DA Statement on the 2020 Census

The Honorable Trey Gowdy, Chair
U.S. House of Representatives
Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
2157 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

The Honorable Elijah Cummings, Ranking Member
U.S. House of Representatives
Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
2471 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Re: U.S. Citizenship Question on 2020 Census

Dear Chairman Gowdy and Ranking Member Cummings,

Thank you for holding today’s hearing on the 2020 census briefing. I appreciate having the opportunity to share with the Committee the collective voices of many of your constituents.

As the International Chair of Democrats Abroad, I write today with the American overseas community’s perspective in regard to the Administration’s desire to include asking for respondents’ citizenship status on the upcoming census. As you may know, Democrats Abroad is the official branch of the Democratic National Committee for the millions of U.S. citizens living outside of America’s borders and territories. We closely follow the actions in Congress from abroad and advise our members to take action as appropriate.

In addition to nineteen states’ attorneys general[1] and six former Census Bureau directors[2], I offer our perspective of strong opposition to the Department of Commerce’s unnecessarily enquiry about U.S. citizenship. Article I, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution explicitly states the need for the federal government to enumerate the citizenry. In no constitutional clause does it state, suggest, or imply that requesting U.S. citizenship status should be part of this decennial process. The Census Bureau rightly halted this practice in 1950 and to bring it back would be disastrous in 21st-century America. Virtually all interested parties want the 2020 census to be accurate, without fear, and robustly funded by Congress. However, if the subject of citizenship is added, it is likely that this traditionally non-partisan project will be met with fear, hostility, questionable results, and other undesirable outcomes.

We believe the Administration is unnecessarily creating opportunities for inaccurate or incomplete census information of your constituents by gravely miscalculating a political move instead of administering sound constitutional policy. Moving to a controversial, citizenship-based census questionnaire is not only preventable but greatly risks the quality of census data to be collected because of the millions of U.S. resident non-citizens - green card holders, refugees, “dreamers,” and many others - who may hesitate to complete the census form due to its overreaching inquiry on citizenship status. By doing so, it would skew the actual population numbers intended for legislative representation, and clearly lead to a misdirected distribution of finite economic resources as appropriated by Congress.

If the Committee does move legislation forward relating to the 2020 Census, Democrats Abroad strongly urges for inclusion of legislative language mandating the enumeration of all federally-unaffiliated U.S. citizens living abroad. Democrats Abroad - along with several other interest groups representing expatriate interests - has testified numerous times before Congress over the years calling for our rightful inclusion in the census. Unfortunately, we remain disenfranchised. In light of this continued injustice, a congressional hearing on the estimated nine million Americans living abroad and how to best include them in the 2020 census is needed far more than determining whether a U.S. household is occupied by citizens or immigrants.

Again, thank you for the opportunity to be heard on this matter. I respectfully request for this statement to be included into the hearing record, and note that I am readily available via phone or e-mail for any follow-up questions or comments from the Committee. I can be reached at (843) 628-2280 or chair@democratsabroad.org.

Sincerely,

Julia Bryan
Democrats Abroad, International Chair

[1] State of California v. Wilbur L. Ross, Jr. et al. (2018), case no. 3:18-cv-01865, United States District Court of Northern California, March 26.

[2] Letter from Thompson et al. to Secretary Ross, U.S. Department of Commerce, 26 January.