With So Much at Stake in 2020 Census, Trump Administration Should Not Hide Decision-Making Process

Sacramento, California - California Attorney General Xavier Becerra Wednesday filed a brief in the U.S. Supreme Court supporting the request to depose U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and U.S. Department of Justice acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore. In March, Attorney General Becerra filed a lawsuit against the Trump Administration over its decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census.

Two lower courts have already rejected the Trump Administration’s arguments for blocking these depositions in this case.

“With so much at stake for California in the 2020 Census, the Trump Administration should not hide its decision-making process,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Our communities depend on the Census to determine critical services for our schools, disaster relief, public health and safety. If the decision to add the citizenship question was lawful and not racially-motivated, the Trump Administration should not be afraid to participate in the depositions.” 

In the filing, California argues that in order to conduct adequate discovery for the suit, states must depose senior officials instrumental to the decision. It contends that Ross and Gore have unique, firsthand knowledge about the decision to add the citizenship question. Gore was the author of a December 2017 letter to Secretary Ross asserting that the Department of Justice needed person-by-person citizenship data to enforce the Voting Rights Act’s prohibition against diluting the power of minority groups.

In the brief, Attorney General Becerra explains California’s strong interest in the case, and argues that district courts must be allowed to press for more information when federal officials try to obscure the real reasons for their decisions and hide the materials on which they relied in making those decisions.

Attorney General Becerra has been a vocal opponent of the Trump Administration’s attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 U.S. Census questionnaire. On March 26, 2018, within hours of Secretary Ross’s decision to add the citizenship question, Attorney General Becerra filed a lawsuit against the Trump Administration to stop this effort to undermine the 2020 Census. In August, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Seeborg’s denied the Trump Administration’s motion to dismiss California’s lawsuit to keep a citizenship question off of the 2020 Census. On February 12, 2018, Attorney General Becerra co-led a coalition of 19 Attorneys General in sending a letter to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, cautioning that a citizenship question would violate the U.S. Constitution and federal statutes. In March, Attorney General Becerra – along with Secretary of State Alex Padilla – also published an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle highlighting how high the stakes are for California.