U.S. House of Representatives

The midterm elections are now over and unprecedented numbers of people in Texas and throughout the country cast their ballots for candidates of their choice. I am extremely grateful to all of those who voted to return me to Congress and that voted for my fellow Democrats.

Voters demonstrated tremendous passion during the period running up to the election. It is extremely important that the hard work and enthusiasm that captured the minds and souls of so many continue.

For a while, the election is over, but the storms continue and they must be confronted and stopped.

We are still faced with local and national political climates in which some elected officials practice voter suppression without shame or reservation. Their methods are simply little more than modern-day poll taxes.

Some state legislators utilize gerrymandering when creating congressional districts. Their rancid efforts are designed to keep minorities and progressives in a weakened position in the halls of government in Washington.

There seems to be an attitude, held by some with wealth and power, that is tainted by a distrust and contempt for those they consider the “other” – people who do not look like them, who do not dine with them, whose first language is not the one that they speak, and whose faith is different from the one that they profess.

At the root of President Trump’s desire to end birthright citizenship is distaste for those that are different and a fundamental misunderstanding of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Even members of his own party have said to the president that an attempt by him to deny citizenship to those born inside the borders of the United States violates our founding document.

If that were not enough, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross wants census forms, and those who actually interview residents, to ask whether or not respondents are citizens of the United States.

When challenged on the origin of the proposed question, Ross said that its inclusion was requested by the Justice Department. When asked about Ross’ statement, a Justice Department spokesperson contradicted the secretary.

The question of whether or not such a question should be included is currently being litigated in federal court and is being watched very closely by me and other advocates of equitable voting rights.

Those who advocate including the question are aware that it would have harmful effects on minority participation in the census, particularly among those people who, even while being citizens, have someone in their household who is not.

These people are fearful that the government will use the information to harass them and their relatives, and many believe it will be less stressful if they do not participate in the 2020 count.

I urge everyone to participate in the census! Its numbers determine how federal funds are allocated and how congressional districts are drawn. You do not have to be a citizen of the United States to be counted. It is sufficient if you are a resident.

This proposal of Secretary Ross is simply another way of retarding social and economic progress and full equality. Hopefully, the courts will see it for exactly what it is: another effort to suppress voting and to cling to power.

U.S. Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson is the ranking member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology and the highest-ranking Texan on the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure. She represents the 30th Congressional District of Texas.

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