My Two Census

Formerly the non-partisan watchdog of the 2010 US Census, and currently an opinion blog that covers all things political, media, foreign policy, globalization, and culture…but sometimes returning to its census/demographics roots.

Posts Tagged ‘law’

Louisiana vs. The Census Bureau, Department of Commerce, and Obama Administration

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

On November 14, 2011, Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell ”filed suit in the U.S. Supreme Court seeking to recover the congressional seat taken from Louisiana as a result of the 2010 Census. To properly apportion seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Constitution requires that a census be taken every 10 years to count the number of lawful residents in each state. In the 2010 Census, the Census Bureau included illegal foreign nationals, along with holders of guest-worker visas and student visas, in the count of lawful residents of each state. As a result of the Census Bureau’s practice, states with large numbers of illegal foreign nationals gained congressional seats, while states with low numbers of illegal foreign nationals, like Louisiana, lost congressional seats.”

This sentiment was augmented by conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch which took further action today:

Judicial Watch, the organization that investigates and fights government corruption, announced today that it filed an amicus curiae brief with the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of the State of Louisiana challenging a current federal policy in which “unlawfully present aliens” were counted in the 2010 Census (Louisiana v. Bryson).

The government used these census numbers to reapportion seats in the House of Representatives and, as a result, the State of Louisiana lost a House seat to which it was entitled.  Louisiana is asking that the Supreme Court order the federal government to recalculate the 2010 apportionment of House seats based upon legal residents as the U.S. Constitution requires.

Judicial Watch’s brief was filed on January 13, 2012, in partnership with the Allied Educational Foundation (AEF) in a lawsuit filed by the State of Louisiana against John Bryson, U.S. Secretary of Commerce; Robert Groves, Director of the U.S. Census Bureau; and Karen Lehman Hass, Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives.  According to the brief:

Amici are concerned about the failure to enforce the nation’s immigration laws and the corrosive effect of this failure on our institutions and the rule of law.  Among the problems caused by this failure is a redistribution of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives to States with large populations of unlawfully present aliens.

Amici respectfully submit that neither Article I Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, the Fourteenth Amendment, or any other provision of the Constitution authorize or permit the inclusion of unlawfully present aliens in the apportionment process.  As a result, this case raises issues critical not just to Louisiana, but to every State, every American citizen, and our federal system of government.

Judicial Watch argues that due to this Census Bureau policy at least five states will lose House seats to which they are entitled.  For example, based upon the Census Bureau’s calculation, Louisiana is being allocated only six House seats, as opposed to the seven that it would have been apportioned, were it not for the inclusion of illegal aliens and “non-immigrant foreign nationals,” encompassing holders of student visas and guest workers.  The brief also notes that the “apportionment, in turn, determines the apportionment of electors in the Electoral College for the next three presidential elections.”

Note to America: Your 2010 Census data is being handed over to private citizens

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

The Census Bureau has long touted that it keeps data private and confidential for 70 years after it is gathered. This concept proved to be false as recently as 2004, when the Census Bureau didn’t put up a fight as it turned over information about Arab-Americans to other government agencies.

The Census Bureau also readily hands over data to research centers at universities, both public and private. This is a little-known program that has not been mentioned in the press. While I may personally agree that universities with data access can provide benefits for society, I stand against the Census Bureau handing over this data on the principle that  the American people have not agreed that the Census Bureau can use their data in this way.

Take a look at this recent Census Bureau press release that highlights the 10+ sites around the country where universities have access to your data:

The Center for Economic Studies at the U.S. Census Bureau, in
partnership with the University of Minnesota, has opened a new Research
Data Center (RDC) laboratory on the university’s campus in Minneapolis.

RDCs are Census Bureau facilities where researchers from academia,
federal agencies and other institutions with approved projects receive
restricted access to unpublished Census Bureau demographic and economic
microdata files. These secure facilities are staffed by Census Bureau
employees and meet stringent physical and computer security requirements
for access to confidential data.

“The Minnesota Research Data Center will serve researchers from a broad
range of academic disciplines, with particular strengths in demography and
public health,” said Census Bureau Director Robert Groves. “The Minnesota
RDC will contribute not only by providing researchers with assistance in
using the demographic, business and health data but also by developing
improved or new data collections.”

“The research lab is housed in the Minnesota Population Center (MPC),
which has a tradition of collaboration with the Census Bureau and other
statistical agencies. As a world leader in the improvement, dissemination
and analysis of census data, MPC is equipped to make unique contributions
to the RDC program,” Groves said.

Before gaining access to the information at RDCs, researchers must
submit proposals to the RDC and the Census Bureau for approval. The review
process ensures that proposed research is feasible, has scientific merit
and benefits Census Bureau programs. In addition, RDC operating procedures,
strict security and strong legal safeguards assure the confidentiality of
these data as required by law. Researchers, for instance, must pass a full
background investigation and are sworn for life to protect the
confidentiality of the data they access, with violations subject to
significant financial and legal penalties.

The Minnesota Census Research Data Center joins similar centers that
have been established in Boston; Berkeley, Calif.; Los Angeles; Washington;
Chicago; Ann Arbor, Mich.; New York; Ithaca, N.Y.; and Durham, N.C. The
center at Berkeley has a branch at Stanford University in Palo Alto,
Calif., while the center at Durham has recently opened a branch at Research
Triangle Park, N.C. An additional center is scheduled to open at a site in
Atlanta in spring 2011.

Class Action Lawsuit Update

Friday, August 6th, 2010

MyTwoCensus.com has been tracking the following lawsuit for quite some time. At first, we supported this suit, because it shows that the Census Bureau discriminated against people in the hiring process. However, when caucasian Census Bureau applicants who were rejected because of supposed criminal records tried to join the lawsuit, they were told that because they were not minorities, they were ineligible to join. If the Census Bureau’s hiring procedures discriminated against people with criminal records/arrests, then it did so against ALL people, not only minorities. Here’s today’s update from the AP:

NEW YORK — A lawsuit in New York City claims the U.S. Census Bureau discriminated in its hiring of more than a million temporary workers to conduct the 2010 census.

The lawsuit was filed by civil rights groups in federal court in Manhattan several months ago and was updated Thursday.

It says the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission warned the Census Bureau last year its hiring practices might be discriminatory. The lawsuit says the EEOC told the bureau its criminal background check policy might “run afoul” of the Civil Rights Act.

The lawsuit accuses the bureau of illegally screening out applicants with often decades-old arrest records for minor offenses or those who were arrested but never convicted.

Freedom of Information? Hardly. Access denied!

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

Some months ago, after I received credible reports that Census Bureau employees were staying at Ritz Carleton hotels while on official biz, I wanted to know the extent of such spending sprees. I filed a Freedom of Information Act request and waited many, many months to hear back about its status. Today, I was fed up. I e-mailed Grant Book, the (presumably young) Commerce Department lawyer whose job it is to keep telling me “wait longer or sue us for the information.” Now, I’m not in the business of lawsuits, so I choose to wait for the info. Today, Mr. Book told me that my “final response” was sent out on June 22. I am 100% certain that this response never reached my inbox, as I searched for it repeatedly. Either way, here’s what the response looks like. The outcome: Negative. The trend toward increased government transparency continues…not! (And I’ve never seen so many court cases cited in my life for denying a FOIA request) Here it is, in all its glory:

The Commerce Department says “No” to my request for information.

MyTwoCensus Editorial: Class action lawsuit should include everyone, not only minorities

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

Earlier this year, MyTwoCensus informed readers about a class action lawsuit that alleges that the Census Bureau discriminates in its hiring process against individuals who have been arrested even though they were never charged with a crime. MyTwoCensus.com subsequently received many inquiries from white/Caucasian people who were not hired by the Census Bureau for this reason and hoped to join this lawsuit and were told that because they were white/Caucasian they were unable to partake in the lawsuit. MyTwoCensus.com wrote to the lawyer in charge of the suit, Adam Klein, of the firm Golden Outten in New York to determine if this was true. Unfortunately, Mr. Klein confirmed that only minorities are eligible to participate in this lawsuit. This is a travesty because this lawsuit itself is now discriminatory against any non-minority who wasn’t hired by the Census Bureau because of alleged (though unproven) misconduct. MyTwoCensus encourages Golden Outten to open this suit to everyone, because if justice is served, it should be served for all.

Is it redistricting time already? Some transparency please!

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

The following story comes from OMB Watch:

The Brookings Institution and the American Enterprise Institute convened an advisory board of experts and representatives of good government groups in order to articulate principles for transparent redistricting and to identify barriers to the public and communities who wish to create redistricting plans.

Redistricting is a legally and technically complex process. Access to district creation and analysis software can encourage broad participation by: being widely accessible and easy to use; providing mapping and evaluating tools that help the public to create legal redistricting plans, as well as maps identifying local communities; be accompanied by training materials to assist the public to successfully create and evaluate legal redistricting plans and define community boundaries; have publication capabilities that allow the public to examine maps in situations where there is no access to the software; and promote social networking and allow the public to compare, exchange and comment on both official and community-produced maps.

Social networking is bad! (says the Census Bureau)

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010
An anonymous Census employee sent SRM a tip about a few flyers the Bureau sent along with their paychecks (finally). One flyer covered driving safety (and please, everyone, do take care while driving). The other covered the ethics of social networking, and unfortunately it came to the conclusion that it’s bad. Sorry Morse, time to close up shop! (Note: That was a joke.)
Email excerpt:
It’s funny how it is implied that criticizing and talking to outsiders about the incompetence of the census machinery and brass is punishable with jail and fines, when in reality, it only applies to title 13 of USC in regard to respondent information and personally identifiable information.  The census own manuals have a section devoted to the rights and protections afforded to whistleblowers.  They also imply that because we are paid government employees, that it is unethical for us to publicly humiliate and or expose the ineptness of our employers.  Nice try.  There is no law preventing anyone from writing in their personal capacity, but it is implied that it is wrong, unethical, and just not cool.
And from the reminder itself (no emphasis added):
CONFIDENTIALITY AND ETHICS REMINDER
Social Networking and Census Employment
As personal blogging, tweeting, social networking sites have become more common and popular, it
is not unusual for Federal employees to have an opportunity to write about their work and their
employer in a public forum.  Please be aware you cannot disclose any nonpublic information that
is protected by statute.  You also cannot receive payments for writing about Census programs or
operations or about assignments you have been given as a Census employee.  In addition, you
must be careful to ensure that there is no appearance created that you are writing on behalf of the
Bureau of the Census, the Department of Commerce, or the United States Government when you
are writing in your personal capacity.
[...]
These restrictions on writing and publications are in addition to the life-time oath you took to
uphold the confidentiality of census information.  Any wrongful disclosure of confidential census
information subjects you to a fine up to $250,000, imprisonment up to five years, or both.

MyTwoCensus Investigaton: Are Census Bureau enumerators attempting to go to each residence more than three times (the maximum number of visits as stated by law)?

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

UPDATE: MyTwoCensus has learned from a Census Bureau official who has requested anonymity that in urban areas, because the travel time between units is negligible, Census Bureau officials have been visiting units up to six times. Large municipalities, particularly those with low participation rates thus far, are fearful of undercounts, so they welcome these measures.

MyTwoCensus has learned from the blogosphere and from anonymous tips (a new feature on our updated contact page) that Census Bureau employees, who are permitted a maximum of three personal visits and three phone calls to each residence that has not returned their 2010 Census forms, have actually visited residences upwards of six times. (We blame Census Bureau officials, not the enumerators!) Yes, these are your tax dollars at work. Here’s the law, as taken from the Census Bureau’s web page:

We have perused the blogosphere to discover that a Census Bureau employee in Chicago has reported the following problems on her blog:

Shifting Census Rules: Six Visits Becomes 36 Points of Contact. Or: WTF?

We learned in training–over and over and over again–that we’re allowed three personal visits and three phone calls. I’ve blogged about this before, because about a week ago, when we started turning in forms with three personal visits and no actual contact, they changed the rules. That’s when we were told six personal visits, despite what had been burned into our brains in training.

Well guess what’s happening now?

Enough time has lapsed that those six visit EQs are coming back and a few of them still haven’t been able to find a proxy or a respondent. In most cases, in my district, they’re in locked buildings with no access to any kind of entry, and no neighbors. My enumerators have tried calling Realtors listed on the signs but they won’t call back. We’re all assuming that the buildings are vacant, but the LCO doesn’t like that.

So now they’ve said that for every single visit our enumerators should be knocking on the doors of six neighbors. By the time they’re done they should have 36 point of contact. THIRTY SIX POINTS OF CONTACT. A close-out, they stressed to us, is very, very, very rare.

Now, let’s set aside the fact that this is stalking, it’s creepy and it’s absolutely and completely ridiculous.The thing that gets me is that, of all rules they can change, I don’t think they should be screwing with the manuals.

How many times were we told to stick to the script? That these had been tested, researched, shot into outer space, all that crap, and that they KNOW that this works the best way. With three personal visits and three calls I can see their point. Much more than that is going to be the law of diminishing returns.

Not that you can reason with these people.

Are these type of shenanigans happening in other areas as well? Please leave your comments below to alert the public and the government officials who read this site where and when similar activities are taking place.

RNC continues deceptive mailers because Obama hasn’t picked up his pen yet…

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

As usual, the Republicans and the Democrats have both made serious errors. 1. The Republicans think they are above the law and continue to send out deceptive mailers. 2. President Obama has not picked up his pen to sign a recently changed bi-partisan supported bill into law. Come on Barack, pick up the pen already! Thanks to Ryan Knutson of Pro Publica for continuing to keep this matter alive, even though it should have been forgotten by now:

The latest legislation [1] intended to stop deceptive “census” mailers [2] passed both chambers of Congress [3] earlier this month, but President Barack Obama still hasn’t signed it into law, and the Republican National Committee is still sending out mailers that the legislation is meant to stop.

Our inboxes continue to receive a deluge of e-mails from people across the country who are still getting fundraisers from the RNC [2] labeled  “Census Document,” a tactic that we’ve been following since February [4]. In an attempt to stop the practice, Congress passed a bill in March [5] requiring that any mailer with the word “census” on the envelope must also include a clearly labeled return address to prevent confusion about whether it’s really from the 2010 Census.

But the RNC got around [1] that requirement by moving the word “census” to a document inside the envelope — yet it was still visible from the outside through the envelope’s clear plastic window.

That move irritated even Republicans. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., proposed legislation [6] to close the loophole. “I would say to people who raise money, whether it’s the Republican National Committee or the Democratic National Committee or [anybody else], don’t use the Census,” he said at the time. “Because it’s wrong.”

The bill passed the House in April, and it breezed through [3] the Senate unanimously on May 5. But without Obama’s signature, it’s still not the law — thus the RNC mailers continue.

Shocking story from Wisconsin: Census worker accuses police of profiling and harassing him while doing his job

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

H/t to Stephanie Jones and The Journal Times for the following scoop. I really could not believe my eyes when I read this story:

RACINE – A U.S. Census Bureau worker has accused Racine police of harassing him while he was working last week and said he has filed a complaint.

Alexander Avila, 21, of Racine, was out last Friday knocking on doors for the census when police in an undercover car stopped him to ask what he was doing, he said. They then started harassing him about his brother who has warrants out for his arrest, he said. They ended up giving him three tickets for traffic violations, which he said were not justified.

I felt scared, intimidated, threatened and racially profiled,” said the written complaint that Avila said he filed Monday with the police department.

Racine Police Chief Kurt Wahlen said his department will be fully investigating the complaint.

But Wahlen said, “We have a right to ask about his brother.”

His brother, Steve Avila II, has nine warrants out for his arrest for traffic violations, Wahlen said.

Avila said once he told police he didn’t know anything about his brother they should have let him continue with his job.

I was treated unfairly,” he said to The Journal Times Monday.

Representatives from the U.S. Census Bureau confirmed Alexander Avila works for the Census and Muriel Jackson, spokeswoman for the bureau, said “we will look into this.”

Avila’s grandmother, Maria Morales, coordinator for Voces de la Frontera in Racine, reported the incident to the Journal Times and Avila confirmed it. Both are U.S. citizens, they said.

Voces de la Frontera is a Wisconsin nonprofit that works to help low-wage and immigrant workers.

Morales has been involved with events to address racial profiling and police harassment and she couldn’t believe now it happened to her grandson.

Police stopped Avila when he started on his route on the 1100 block of Erie Street, he said.

When police stopped him they asked him what he was doing and he told them he was working going door to door trying to collect information for the 2010 Census and showed them his identification, he said. They then questioned the validity of his identification and then when they saw his name they started asking about his brother. He told them he did not know where his brother is and does not talk to him. But one of the officers accused him of lying , Avila said . Then the officer told him that he had seen him driving and said he failed to signal when he turned at State Street, Avila added. They also told him he was driving suspiciously, Avila said in his complaint. He told officers he has a binder full of addresses for people he has to contact and he said he was having trouble finding some of the addresses.

Then police accused him of reading the binder while he was driving, but he said he was not reading while he was driving.

I knew the address and street numbers but … I just had a difficult time finding them,” he said in the complaint.

He ended up receiving three tickets for failure to signal, inattentive driving and obstruction of vision because he had two small necklaces hanging from his rearview mirror, he said.

He said he filed the complaint because he was treated unfairly and didn’t want it to go unreported.

I just want them to know they cannot go around and harass someone for no reason,” Avila said. “I don’t want to be afraid.”

RNC Fundraising Mailer…Looks shady to me.

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

Take a look at it HERE

Come on Michael Steele and the Republican National Committee, get with it!

New Jersey city files lawsuit against the Census Bureau

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

It’s getting pretty trendy to file lawsuits against the Census Bureau. Here’s another one from New Jersey:

Irvington files suit against Census bureau

By Richard Khavkine/For The Star-Ledger

April 20, 2010, 5:10AM

IRVINGTON – Residents in an apartment complex of more than 1,700 households did not receive their Census forms, and township officials, fearing the loss of millions of federal dollars, have sued the Census Bureau alleging a breach of its constitutional mandate.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court, seeks a court order compelling the agency to send a team of workers to the Maple Gardens apartments, a four-tower complex near Springfield and Maple avenues that is home to about 5,000 people.

According to recent estimates, the gated community’s residents could comprise as much as 9 percent of the township’s entire population.

“I’m very concerned,” Mayor Wayne Smith said Monday. “That is a glaring omission.”

Although its ostensible purpose is to count the population, the Census also helps policy makers determine how to disburse $400 billion in federal funding each year.

“Dollars tend to be commensurate with your population,” Smith said, alluding to federal funds that help pay for facilities and services, such as road construction projects, job training centers and schools.

According to the latest American Community Survey, which tracks demographic trends between Censuses, Irvington’s population dipped to about 56,000 in 2008, a 60-year low. The township, hit hard by foreclosures, had a population of 60,695 a decade ago, according to the 2000 Census.

“Who knows what they missed in the rest of the township?” said township attorney, Marvin T. Braker, adding, “You can’t exclude that many people. It’s just fundamentally unfair.”

The suit also seeks an extension of the April 16 deadline to mail in the forms.

A Census spokeswoman said the agency has contingency plans to help it account for large swaths of populations that might have been missed, such as that cited by the township. One possible solution would be to set up a Census station in the buildings’ lobbies.

“One way we try to cover all bases would be to set up a table in the lobby,” said Yolanda Finley, who had not seen the suit and could not comment on the township’s allegation that no forms were mailed to the complex. “There are all kinds of arrangements made to count in a building that size.”

Smith, though, said he was skeptical.

“I’m not assured that what they’re going to do is going to be enough,” he said. “Whatever they need to do, they need to do more, because they made the mistake.”

According to the Census Bureau, it costs 42 cents to obtain a mailed-back Census form. Getting a household’s responses in person if residents have not mailed back the form costs upward of $57.

The township’s Census response rate is currently 44 percent, below the nation’s 69 percent rate, according to the bureau’s most recent figures.

Finley said that residents who had not received Census forms could call (866) 877-6868 to have one mailed.

Rebuttal To WSJ Op-Ed

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

Two days ago, we posted an op-ed that was published in the Wall Street Journal that called the 2010 Census unconstitutional. Well, Myrna Perez of the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law shot back with the following piece:

Accounting for the Census Clause

In the inaccurately titled opinion piece (“Our Unconstitutional Census“) published on August 9 in the Wall Street Journal, Messrs. Baker and Stonecipher, a constitutional law professor and pollster respectively, falsely claim that the current practice of counting undocumented persons in the census for the purpose of apportionment is unconstitutional.

The “Census clause” or sometimes called the “Enumeration clause” is found in Article I, 1, § 2, cl. 3 of Constitution.  After taking into account the removal and additions that have occurred with later amendments, that clause reads as follows:  “Representatives . . . shall be apportioned among the several States . . . according to their respective Numbers . . . . The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct.”  Further, Section 2 of the Fourteenth Amendment states that “Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed.”

The Constitution uses the word “numbers” or “persons” — not “citizens,” or “legal residents,” or “those lawfully present” as the authors suggest.  Moreover, the Constitution wholly and explicitly empowers Congress to sort out the details.  The express delegation of the responsibility to Congress makes it odd that part of their opinion piece casts Congress fulfilling its constitutional obligations to make the policy determinations guiding the census as a bad thing.

In a move that is sure to irk “strict constructionists” the authors ignore the plain text of the Constitution and cite enabling legislation for support, arguing that the name of first census act used the word “inhabitant” and that the contemporaneous definition of that word were persons entitled to the privileges conferred by the state, which would exclude unlawful residents.  The word “inhabitant,” is not used in the Constitution’s Census clause, but is instead used when describing qualifications of Representatives and Senators.  In the Qualification clauses, the word “inhabitant” probably fairly means what the authors say it means.  But, it is improper for the authors to import a word from other sections of the Constitution into a clause where the framers deliberate and purposely omitted that word and claim that the word is controlling.

Even if Congressional understanding of the Constitution trumps its plain text, the first census act actually suggests reaching a contrary conclusion because that act counted slaves and non-white free persons.  It required the district marshals to swear or affirm an oath that they would undertake a “just and perfect enumeration and description of all persons resident within my district.”  Those facts mean that Congress at least had a more expansive view of “inhabitants” than the authors would allow, and as the Constitution indicates, Congress gets to make the call as to the details.

The authors invoke the Wesberry v. Sanders principle that there should be rough equivalents of voting citizens in state legislative districts.  Justice Rehnquist, however, in an opinion in the mid-90s rejected the application of the Wesberry principle to Congress when conducting the census.  He also noted that the Court had reached the same conclusion on two prior occasions because of the latitude given to Congress under the Constitution and because the districts at issue in Wesberry were intra-state, but federal apportionment required interstate review which could not be done with the same precision.  Even the Supreme Court disagrees with the authors.

There are good policy reasons for including all residents in a state when conducting apportionment.  A district’s representation affects everyone in the district; moreover a district’s representation is impacted by everyone in the district.

The authors may disagree that apportionments should be influenced by enumerations of undocumented persons, but it is false that the current practice of doing so is unconstitutional.