U.S. Commerce Secretary agrees to appear before Rep. Cummings' committee about census, citizenship question

Rep. Elijah Cummings, who has long sought to learn how the Trump administration came to develop a census question asking people their citizenship status, said Tuesday that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross will testify before the Baltimore Democrat’s Committee on Oversight and Reform.

Ross is expected to be asked at the hearing about the 2020 census question, which provoked a number of lawsuits — including one by Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh.

Cummings’ committee said the hearing would be held March 14. But a Commerce Department spokeswoman said in an email that the department “is working with Chairman Cummings and Ranking Member (Jim) Jordan to determine a mutually agreeable date for the secretary to appear before the committee.”

Last week, a federal judge in New York blocked the Commerce Department from using the question, saying it would violate federal rules. The decision is expected to set off an extended legal battle.

Cummings, who became the committee’s chairman this year after Democrats won control of the House in November, said the department withheld related documents that he and other Democrats sought last year.

But, following several weeks of discussions, Ross agreed to testify before the committee “voluntarily and without a subpoena,” Cummings said Tuesday in a prepared statement.

“Committee members expect Secretary Ross to provide complete and truthful answers to a wide range of questions, including questions regarding the ongoing preparations for the census, the addition of a citizenship question, and other topics.”

“The committee also expects full compliance with all of our outstanding document requests prior to the hearing,” Cummings said.

Last April, Frosh joined 17 of his counterparts across the country in suing the Trump administration over the citizenship question, which critics say would drive down immigrant participation and lead to an undercount of states’ populations.

Frosh, a Democrat, said at the time that both documented and undocumented immigrants might not fill out a census form sent to their address that asks about citizenship for fear the information would be used against them.



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