Congressman José E. Serrano

Representing the 15th District of New York

House Defeats King Amendment to Strip Serrano Language in CJS Bill Preventing Inclusion of Citizenship Question in 2020 Census

Jun 21, 2019
Press Release

Washington, DC – Last night, the House voted 240-192 against Representative Steve King’s amendment to the Commerce, Justice and Science bill to strike Section 534, which prohibits the use of funds for the inclusion of a citizenship question in the 2020 Census. During the debate on the amendment, Congressman Serrano, author of the bill, stood in strong opposition of the provision and urged his colleagues to vote NO:

“The inclusion of the citizenship question was a unilateral decision by Secretary Ross last year.  Secretary Ross chose to overrule recommendations from non-partisan experts at the Census Bureau, and ignore the potential impacts including this question would have on response rates to the Census without rigorous testing and analysis.

“Even more recently, additional evidence of the other side’s attempts to abuse the Census in an effort to gerrymander districts has come to light.  Files recently discovered from a Republican redistricting specialist reveal that the citizenship question would result in a structural electoral advantage for Republicans and non-Hispanic whites.

“The Voting Rights Act enforcement “excuse” the Republicans lean on is nothing more than a ruse and their solution in search of what they view as a problem. It is unfortunate that they have turned to the Census to play their political games to undermine the American people.

“Most changes to the Census undergo years of testing and analysis before being added to the decennial census form. The reason we have that process is to better understand the impact a change can have on the response rate and accuracy of the Census.  It allows for the Bureau to better plan and adjust its operational and outreach strategies. 

“Census is only testing the impact of the question this summer with results anticipated in October – after critical milestones have passed.  The Administration leaves no time for Census to mitigate the potential impacts of what they may find.

“Wilbur Ross refused to listen to the expert advice of advocates and experts at the Bureau who did NOT recommend adding an untested question so late in the process.  Additionally, there is no doubt that including this question will have a serious negative impact on the self- response rate of the Census.  People will simply choose not to respond to the Census form- and the Bureau will be forced to engage in expensive in-person follow up that was not originally assumed in their cost estimates. 

“This should not be an issue that divides us.  It should not matter whether you live in a red or blue state or whether you represent an urban or a rural district.  This question will impact everyone.

“This amendment will reduce the accuracy and increase the undercount in places like Florida, Texas, Alabama, Michigan, California, and New York. This in turn will affect reapportionment and the distribution of federal funds for the next decade in many of the communities that we represent. We can and should do better.  Our Constitution requires that we count ALL PERSONS every 10 years. 

“In conclusion the issue is very simple.  If you represent a community that will be undercounted by this question, then you should oppose this amendment. If you support the strict interpretation of the Constitution, then you should oppose this amendment.

“I urge my colleagues to vote NO.”

Click here to watch Congressman Serrano’s on the floor: