Commerce secretary ordered to testify about census citizenship question

Sept. 22 (UPI) -- A federal judge on Friday called for U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to sit for a deposition in a lawsuit against his department regarding a question about citizenship added to the 2020 Census. In March, the Commerce Department announced the question would be included in the census, which the Trump administration said was necessary to enforce the Voting Rights Act.

Democrats have argued that adding the question will lead to an inaccurate population count because it will discourage some immigrants from filling out the questionnaire.
In April, then-New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman along with 17 other attorneys general and mayors of six cities filed a lawsuit to block the Trump administration from demanding citizenship information in the 2020 Census.

U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman of the Southern District of New York said Ross needs to testify because he was "personally and directly involved in the decision, and the unusual process leading to it, to an unusual degree."
Earlier this year, Ross testified before the House and said the Department of Justice initiated the request to include the citizenship question and afterward he decided to take a hard-look at the request.
Furman said that testimony casts grave doubt because Ross began considering reinstating the citizenship question shortly after his confirmation in February 2017, months before the Department of Justice's formal request Dec. 12, 2017, CNN reported .

Also, in May 2017, Ross demanded to know why no action had been taken on his request, taking "an unusually strong personal interest in the matter," Furman wrote.
The Commerce Department declined requests for comment about Furman's order, CNN reported.
A spokesman for the Justice Department, which is representing the Commerce Department and the Census Bureau , also declined to comment to NPR .

Dale Ho, one of the plaintiffs' attorneys who leads the American Civil Liberties Union's Voting Rights Project, issued a statement saying the group is looking forward to hearing Ross' testimony.
"DOJ has no need for a door-to-door inquiry of the citizenship status of every member of every household in America," Ho said. "We look forward to getting answers under oath about the Trump administration's real agenda: attacking immigrant communities."