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Census Bureau Struggled To Recruit Policy Wonks To Support Citizenship Question, Emails Reveal

on June 22, 2018 in National Harbor, Maryland.
NATIONAL HARBOR, MD - JUNE 22: U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross speaks at the SelectUSA 2018 Investment Summit June 22, 2018 in National Harbor, Maryland. The investment summit encourages direct foreign invest... NATIONAL HARBOR, MD - JUNE 22: U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross speaks at the SelectUSA 2018 Investment Summit June 22, 2018 in National Harbor, Maryland. The investment summit encourages direct foreign investment in companies across the United States. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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July 25, 2018 11:59 am

The Census Bureau struggled to find policy wonks willing to go on record in support of the Trump administration’s addition of a citizenship question on the 2020 Census, with even the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute telling the bureau that it couldn’t find any experts in favor of the move, according to recently released emails.

The email exchange was among hundreds released publicly on Monday night after a court order in one of the lawsuits challenging the question, which civil rights advocates fear will diminish the political power of immigrant communities.

In February, as the Trump administration was going through the process of formally reviewing a request — ostensibly from the Justice Department — to add the question, acting Census Bureau Director Ron Jarmin reached out to Michael Strain, director of economic policy studies at AEI, looking to set up stakeholder meetings with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who would ultimately make the decision to add the question.

“Most stakeholders will speak against the proposal. We’re looking to find someone thoughtful who can speak to the pros of adding such a question or perhaps addressing the fundamental data need some other way (e.g., admin records),” Jarmin wrote, asking Strain if he knew of anyone at AEI or elsewhere who could participate in such a meeting.

“None of my colleagues at AEI would speak favorably about the proposal,” Strain responded. “Is it important that the person actually be in favor of the proposal?”

Jarmin thanked him, but added, “We are trying to find someone who can give a professional expression of support for the proposal in contrast to the many folks we can find to give professional statements against the proposal.”

“Interesting, but perhaps not so surprising, that no one at AEI is willing to do that,” Jarmin said.

Read the email exchange below:

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