White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, during Tuesday’s briefing, defended the inclusion of a question on citizenship in the U.S. census as providing data to the Department of Justice to protect voters and comply with the Voting Rights Act.
One reporter asked for a response to claims that including the citizenship question would discourage “immigrants” from participating.
“This is a question that’s been included in every census since 1965, with the exception of 2010 when it was removed,” said Sanders. She added that the question has “provided data that’s necessary for the Department of Justice to protect voters and specifically to help us better comply with the Voting Rights Act.”
The Department of Commerce reinstated the question and on Tuesday Sanders said the department felt strongly about the decision.
Yet another reporter brought up critics’ claims that the census would be used against “immigrants,” even to target them.
“I would argue that this has been practice of the United States government. The purpose is to determine individuals that are here,” replied Sanders.
Pressed on the issue, Sanders again emphasized, “I think that it is going to determine the individuals in our country and provide information that allows us to comply with our own laws and with our own procedures.”
Reporters continued to press the issue and were met with repeated comment from Sanders that the Commerce Department found the question important to include on the 2020 census, as it has been in many years past.
Another reporter pointed to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, identifying the secretary’s work while in business school on the 1960 census when the reporter said that the citizenship question was included. “Is this his idea to revive it after 22 years or did that originate in the White House,” the reporter asked.
Sanders said that the question was “something that the Department of Commerce overseas, but it also takes into account suggestions and recommendations from the Department of Justice and others. The Department of Justice certainly played a role in this process.”
Pressed on White House involvement, she said that the White House supports the decision, but that “the decision was made at the department level.”
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