Question to appear on upcoming census stirs opposing viewpointsFree Access

AUSTIN — Ted Cruz of Texas was one of three United States senators who requested that respondents to the 2020 decennial census be asked if they are citizens of the United States.

     When Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross responded in the affirmative last week, Cruz said, “I applaud Secretary Ross for honoring this request by my colleagues and me. It is imperative that the data gathered in the census is reliable, given the wide-ranging impacts it will have on U.S. policy. A question on citizenship is a reasonable, commonsense addition to the census.”

     On March 28, state Sen. Sylvia R. Garcia, D-Houston, who chairs the Texas Senate Hispanic Caucus, took issue with the question. “Adding a question on citizenship at this time would only seek to fan the flames of fear and distrust in the census, further risking depressed response rates,” Garcia said.

     She added that the Census Bureau would “have to expend more resources in the field for those fearful of an initial response.”

     “Even with additional resources, an undercount could result in less representation for Texas in Congress, inaccurate data for redistricting, unreliable numbers for business seeking to move to Texas, and a loss of federal funding for communities across the state. In a word, this could be disastrous. I implore our state leaders to support the litigation to remove this question and fight for an accurate census count nationwide,” Garcia added.

     State Rep. Cesar Blanco, D-El Paso, on March 26 held a Capitol news conference detailing concerns similar to those expressed by Garcia.

     Citizenship questions have been included on prior censuses: “Between 1820 and 1950, almost every decennial census asked a question on citizenship in some form,” according to a Commerce Department news release.

AGs file court brief

     Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on March 26 announced the filing of a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the Trump administration’s lawsuit against California over state laws that signatories of the brief say intentionally obstruct the federal government’s ability to enforce the nation’s immigration law.  

     Paxton, the state’s chief litigator, was joined in the brief by a coalition of 17 state officials, including the attorneys general of Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina and West Virginia; and Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant and Maine Gov. Paul LePage.  

     In the brief, Attorney General Paxton and his fellow attorneys general highlight a 2012 case where the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states couldn’t stand in the way of federal agents following federal immigration law. 

     “Dangerous sanctuary policies like California’s undermine the rule of law and endanger good law enforcement officers and the communities that need their protection the most. It is incomprehensible that California finds criminal illegal aliens dangerous enough to detain, but then insists on releasing them back into the community to offend again instead of turning them over to federal immigration authorities for removal. If California prefers different immigration policies, it is free to take them up with the appropriate authority: Congress,” Paxton said.

DeVos approves plan

     Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos on March 26 announced her approval of Texas’ consolidated state plan under the Every Student Succeeds Act.

     The Every Student Succeeds Act became law in 2015, replacing the No Child Left Behind Act, which was signed into law by then-President George W. Bush in 2002. The new act retains annual standardized testing requirements and tasks each state with developing a revised plan subject to federal approval.

     “Texas’ plan met the requirements of the law, therefore I have approved it,” said DeVos. “I look forward to seeing how Texas embraces the flexibility afforded by ESSA to innovate on behalf of the Lone Star State’s students.”

     DeVos pointed out three elements of Texas’ approved plan:

— Rigorous, yet achievable goals for all student groups in Texas, while creating stronger alignment between all state and federal program areas;

— Strong support and interventions to assist low-performing schools; and

— Alignment of federal funding with priorities within the Texas Education Agency’s strategic plan.

     Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath welcomed the announcement by DeVos, saying, “In Texas, we are committed to ensuring every child is prepared for success in college, a career or the military. Our state plan reflects a commitment to reinforcing public education outcomes for more than five million schoolchildren while continuing to strengthen the economic future of Texas.”

Guv returns from India

     Gov. Greg Abbott on March 30 returned from a nine-day business development trip to India, where he visited with government officials and business leaders in several cities to promote economic and trade relationships between India and Texas.

     Abbott met with Reliance Industries, Infosys Limited, JSW Steel and Wipro Limited and with India Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the nation’s ministers of petroleum and natural gas, commerce and industry and civil aviation.

ed  sterling is the Director of Members Services at Texas Press Association.

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