Tierney Sneed for TPM:
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement to TPM that when the Census Bureau gives the President the 2020 census data for congressional apportionment, it will make that data public at the same time.
The statement commits the Trump administration to following a decades-long tradition of simultaneously releasing and transmitting the numbers, encouraging public confidence that the data will not be secretly manipulated by the White House.
For months, former Census officials and other census observers have been on the lookout for signals that the Trump administration might deviate from these long-established protocols. On Thursday, TPM sent the Commerce Department and the Census Bureau a detailed list of questions about its plans for the apportionment process.
“I have no further comment on the ongoing litigation, but we will release this Census data publicly, and in keeping with past practice, will do so simultaneously with its delivery to the President,” Ross said in a response provided to TPM on Friday afternoon.
After a follow up from TPM, the Commerce Department confirmed that Ross was referring to the total population counts, the apportionment calculations that they produce, and, in the event the Supreme Court gives a green light, the immigration data that Trump is requesting so that he can exclude undocumented immigrants from apportionment process.
A lower court has declared the exclusion of undocumented immigrants from the apportionment count illegal. Not long after TPM received the initial statement from Ross, the Supreme Court announced it would hear arguments in that case on a timetable that could let it resolve the dispute before early January.
The gambit, if okayed by the Supreme Court, would allow Trump to diminish political representation for immigrant-rich states, while boosting the political power of whiter, Republican-leaning parts of the country. It has been blocked by a lower court.
Even amid the legal uncertainty, the Census Bureau has been moving forward on assembling data on undocumented immigrants. Recent developments in the various census-related court cases have suggested that the Bureau is having trouble collecting reliable data on undocumented immigrants beyond those that can be linked to ICE detention records, which would be a relatively small number of people.