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Congresswomen Sheila Jackson Lee Statement on the Decision By the Trump Administration to Invoke Executive Privilege Regarding Congressional Oversight Requests Concerning the 2020 Census


Location: Washington, DC

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, a senior member of the House Committees on the Judiciary, Homeland Security, and the Budget, released this statement on the decision by the Trump Administration to invoke Executive Privilege regarding Congressional oversight request concerning the 2020 census:

"Earlier today, the President announced that his administration would invoke Executive Privilege in the Congress's pursuit of information related to the Commerce Department's decision to include a question inquiring of citizenship on the 2020 census. The decision to add the citizenship question, and the decision to compound that decision with the invocation of Executive Privilege is wrong.

"Our system of government is a representative democracy. Our elected officials must be responsive to the general populace in order to help represent their interests honestly. The Department of Commerce's announcement that it would inquire as to respondents' citizenship status on the 2020 National Census jeopardizes this ideal. It is troubling, misguided and recalls a terrible chapter of our history. Our decennial census is a critical exercise, as it dictates the representative power of each state and helps inform the internal redistribution of our national assets. The decision to ask about citizenship invites concern, and has the potential to disproportionately impact vulnerable and underserved communities, as well as communities of color. For example, given the current political climate, it has the potential to intimidate potential respondents, irrespective of their citizenship status. It is no coincidence that this decision is opposed by groups such as the NAACP and other civil rights organizations.

"Earlier this year, the Supreme Court heard oral argument on this issue and a decision is expected soon. After argument, but before an opinion has been issued, news reports emerged which seemed to corroborate the fear that the decision to add the citizenship question was not driven by concerns to get an accurate count, but instead by politics. Specifically, several outlets reported that the computer records of a deceased individual confirmed that the reasons for inserting the citizenship question on the Census was to expand the electoral reach of Republicans and non-Hispanic whites. The consequences of this decision are not relegated to "blue states" or "red states." Statistics show that 60 percent of the country's undocumented immigrants live in urban areas, a majority of which was won by Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. An undercount of metropolitan urban areas could adversely affect the funds received by cities such as Houston, Austin and Dallas.

"Moreover, the decision to invoke Executive Privilege is yet another example of this President flouting legitimate requests at Congressional oversight and preventing the discovery of information likely to aid the consideration of legislative action in the Congress. It is imperative that the President reconsider his decision to stonewall legitimate requests at oversight. If he does not, I am confident that the Courts will see this act for what it is: an attempt to deny transparency, when nothing more than the health and vibrancy of our democracy is at stake."

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