Census Bureau Nominee Offers No Opinion On Census Citizenship Question "I have no plans to voice an opinion" on the controversial 2020 census question about citizenship status, President Trump's nominee Steven Dillingham testified during his Senate confirmation hearing.

Census Bureau Nominee Offers No Opinion On Census Citizenship Question

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RACHEL MARTIN (HOST): President Trump's nominee to lead the Census Bureau was back on Capitol Hill yesterday. If confirmed, he'd have to join multiple lawsuits against the Census Bureau over a new, controversial citizenship question on the form. Here's NPR's Hansi Lo Wang.

HANSI LO WANG (BYLINE): In 2020, the Trump administration is planning to ask every household, is this person a citizen of the United States? The administration says it needs responses to that question to better enforce the Voting Rights Act's protections against racial discrimination. Dozens of states, cities and other groups have filed six lawsuits to try and get it removed.

(SOUNDBITE OF HEARING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Good morning. This hearing will come to order.

WANG: And Wednesday on Capitol Hill, senators considering the nomination of a new Census Bureau director raised the citizenship question.

(SOUNDBITE OF HEARING)

STEVE DAINES (R-MT, SEN): Having an understanding of something as fundamental as how many citizens and noncitizens are in the country, I think that's essential.

WANG: Senator Steve Daines, a Republican from Montana, asked President Trump's nominee, Steven Dillingham, if he supports including the question on the census.

(SOUNDBITE OF HEARING)

STEVEN DILLINGHAM (CENSUS BUREAU DIRECTOR NOMINEE): Senator, I have no plans to voice an opinion on that question. I think it would not be advisable, in my position, if I'm confirmed to be the director of the Census Bureau.

WANG: Dillingham said the courts will decide if the citizenship question stays or goes. When that decision will come is not clear. Right now the Trump administration is trying to get the Supreme Court to weigh in on the lawsuits. The administration wants to stop the plaintiffs' lawyers from questioning two key officials behind the question, including Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

ELIZABETH OUYANG (NEW YORK IMMIGRATION COALITION): What are they hiding? Why such extreme measures to block the essential deposition?

WANG: Liz OuYang is a census consultant for the New York Immigration Coalition. They're one of the groups suing the Trump administration because Census Bureau research suggests asking about citizenship status could discourage noncitizens from participating. That would harm the accuracy of the information collected for the head count of every person living in the U.S. that the Constitution requires. The first trial for the census lawsuits is set to start in November, the day before the midterm elections. Hansi Lo Wang, NPR News, Washington.

(SOUNDBITE OF RRAREBEAR'S "BACKPACK")

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