Titus and Cortez Masto to Wilbur Ross: Resign

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U.S. President Donald Trump listens to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross speak during a luncheon in June in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — Rep. Dina Titus and Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto want President Trump’s Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to step down. 

The Nevada Democrats both issued statements calling for the cabinet official’s resignation in light of a U.S. Supreme Court decision blocking — at least temporarily — the Trump administration’s plans to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. The high court agreed with a lower court to send the issue back to the Commerce Department, citing problems with Ross’ rationale for adding the question. 

“The Supreme Court’s decision makes clear that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross misled Congress and the American people about his true intentions. He should resign,” Titus said. “We cannot be silent about this attack on our schools, our hospitals, our roads, and our voting power.”

Cortez Masto said that a “citizenship question has no place on the U.S. Census.” She added, “As I’ve said before, Secretary Ross should resign and President Trump should abandon this attack on communities in America.”

Ross has said that the plan to revive a citizenship question on the 2020 census was an attempt to bolster the Voting Rights Act. 

But the Supreme Court opinion said, “Several points, taken together, reveal a significant mismatch between the Secretary’s decision and the rationale he provided. The record shows that he began taking steps to reinstate the question a week into his tenure, but gives no hint that he was considering VRA enforcement.” 

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the opinion, “It is hardly improper for an agency head to come into office with policy preferences and ideas, discuss them with affected parties, sound out other agencies for support, and work with staff attorneys to substantiate the legal basis for a preferred policy.” 

But, Roberts added, “Altogether, the evidence tells a story that does not match the Secretary’s explanation for his decision. … The explanation provided here was more of a distraction.” 

The delay marks at least a partial victory for critics of adding the question, who argued that it would deter people — particularly immigrants — from responding to the census, which could drastically skew the count. Census numbers are used to determine everything from how congressional districts are divvied up to where the government spends cash for programs like Head Start and Medicare.

“The Trump Administration’s effort to add a citizenship question to the census is a disgraceful attempt to rig election outcomes and silence communities of color,” Titus said. 

Cortez Masto, a former Nevada attorney general, called the opinion “a clear sign that the Supreme Court recognizes this administration tried to lie its way through our judicial system in order to add a political question on citizenship to the 2020 Census. While I’m hopeful that this signals the end of this naked attempt to undercount communities of color in Nevada, and across the country, I continue to be vigilant.” 

Nevada Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford said in a statement that the citizenship question “was designed to frighten immigrants into not participating in the census and would have had devastating consequences for the country as a whole, and specifically for Nevada, where nearly one in five citizens were born outside of the United States.”

Nevada Democratic Rep. Susie Lee responded to the Supreme Court’s census ruling on Twitter, “This is the right decision by the Supreme Court for Nevada and our entire country. A protected and accurate #Census ensures we are able to serve every Nevadan and get the resources our state needs.”

Nevada policy watchers have warned that the state’s large proportion of foreign-born residents renders the state distinctly vulnerable to a census undercount that would lead to a substantial loss of federal funding. State officials estimate that every person who is undercounted would cost the state more than $1,600 in lost federal money per year.

According to the American Immigration Council, nearly one in five Nevada residents are foreign-born, while almost one in six residents is a native-born U.S. citizen with at least one immigrant parent. In 2015, undocumented immigrants comprised 36 percent of the immigrant population. Between 2010 and 2014, 254,400 people in Nevada, including 117,210 born in the U.S., lived with at least one undocumented family member.

Robin Bravender
Robin Bravender is the Washington, D.C., bureau chief for The Newsroom, a network of state-based non-profit news outlets that includes Nevada Current.

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