Senate Panel Considers Dillingham Nomination for Census Director; Lawsuits Challenging Census Citizenship Question Move Forward
Senate Panel Considers Dillingham Nomination for Census Director; Lawsuits Challenging Census Citizenship Question Move Forward

October 2018

The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs held a confirmation hearing on October 3 to consider Steven Dillingham, the Trump administration’s nominee for Census Bureau director. The bureau, despite being deep into preparations for the 2020 Census, has been without a permanent director since June 2017.

During the hearing, Dillingham answered questions about managing the costs of the decennial census and strategies for reaching hard-to-count populations. Comments from senators indicate that Dillingham’s nomination has bipartisan support.

Further action is unlikely to occur until after the November midterm elections since the Senate is in recess until that time. The next step for Dillingham’s nomination is a vote by the full committee, which has not yet been scheduled. Following committee approval, the nomination must be approved by the full Senate.

Despite questions from both Republicans and Democrats during the hearing, Dillingham avoided taking a stance on whether the 2020 Census should include a citizenship question. As reported in August Highlights, AERA sent a letter to the Commerce Department and also joined a COSSA-led community letter in opposition to the proposal to add a citizenship question on the 2020 Census.

Six states, cities, and advocacy groups have mounted legal challenges to the Commerce Department’s decision. The lawsuits contend that the question is unconstitutional because it would violate the federal government’s duty under the Constitution to count the “whole number of persons” in the United States and that the department failed to follow procedures mandated under the Administrative Procedure Act.

Despite a request from the Trump administration to throw out the suits, all courts are allowing the suits to proceed. On October 22, the Supreme Court issued a ruling allowing the New York federal district court hearing the case to question John Gore, acting assistant attorney general for the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, while blocking the court from deposing Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. A federal court denied a request from the administration to delay the lawsuit. That trial is slated to begin on November 5.

Earlier this month, AERA Director of Government Relations Juliane Baron chaired a briefing for the Committee on Education Funding about the importance of an accurate 2020 Census and the challenges of reaching hard-to-count communities. The panelists included Maria Olmedo-Malagon (U.S. Census Bureau), Indivar Dutta-Gupta (Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality), and Corrine Yu (The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights).

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