A few months after he started leading the Commerce Department, Secretary Wilbur Ross became impatient. As a powerful decider for the U.S. census, he had a keen interest in adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census as soon as possible. “I am mystified why nothing [has] been done in response to my months old request that we include the citizenship question. Why not?” he wrote in a May 2017 email to two Commerce Department officials. The email was among the more than 2,400 pages of internal documents the Trump administration filed in federal courts Monday as part of the lawsuits against Ross’ addition of a controversial citizenship question to the 2020 census. NPR has filed Freedom of Information Act requests for similar documents. The court filing also includes census-related articles by NPR and other news organizations compiled by federal agency press offices. The Commerce Department and the Census Bureau are facing six lawsuits from more than two dozen states and cities, plus other groups, that want the question removed.
Earlier this month, a spokesperson for the Commerce Department said in a written statement that the department is “confident that the plaintiffs’ case is without merit, that any allegations of bad faith are specious, and that we will prevail in court.”
While that legal fight plays out, some Republicans are pushing for the exclusion of immigrants in the country illegally from population counts that are used to determine how many congressional seats and Electoral College votes each state gets. Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., and the state of Alabama are suing the Census Bureau for its long-standing policy of counting every person living in the U.S. — regardless of immigration status — for the census.