California Rep. Sherman defends 'hysteria' over citizenship, census question

California Rep. Brad Sherman on Sunday defended against criticism about his and fellow Democrats' “hysteria” over President Trump adding a “citizenship” question to the 2020 census, saying that getting immigrants from oppressive Latin American countries to fill out the federal questionnaire is “going to be difficult.”

“Immigrants come from countries with oppressive governments in many cases,” Sherman said on “Fox News Sunday.” “And to convince them that a man who stands there and says these are rapists and murderers and must be pushed out of our country (and that I) should get information about who’s in your family … is going to be difficult.”

Sherman was almost certainly referring to Trump vowing at the start of his presidential campaign to build a wall along the southern U.S. border to keep drug dealers and rapists from entering from Mexico.

And last week, the Trump administration announced that it would add the citizenship question to the upcoming federal census, sparking concern among Democrats that immigrants will dodge the survey, which will dilute political representation for states that tend to vote Democratic and rob many communities of federal dollars.

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FILE PHOTO:    U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Assistant Field Office Director Jorge Field (L), 53, arrests an Iranian immigrant in San Clemente, California, U.S., May 11, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo - RC1A097CF900

A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) field officer arrests an Iranian immigrant in San Clemente, California, U.S., May 11, 2017.  (REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

“I don’t want California to miss out on anything, but I think the hysteria that answering questions is somehow going to force people away from a census -- I just don't buy it,” Shawn Nelson, vice chairman of California’s Orange County Board of  Supervisors, said on “Fox News Sunday,” in response to Sherman’s argument.

Nelson also argued that the federal government is precluded from sharing such information for 72 years after a person answers the census.

California, which has roughly 9.9 million immigrants, the most among states, is again at the center of the debate on illegal immigration.

Attorney General Jeff Session in early March sued California over three state immigration laws -- including one related to so-called “sanctuary cities” that bars local law enforcement officials in many cases from turning over prisoners to immigration authorities.

Last week, Orange County’s all-Republican voted to condemn the state law on police cooperation with federal immigration authorities and to join the Trump administration lawsuit that seeks to overturn it.

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“We are put in an untenable position where our sheriff’s deputies are precluded from talking to federal authorities if they know the authorities want to pick someone up because the person is here illegally, is charged with a crime,” Nelson said Sunday.

“Our people can’t even talk to the federal government unless there are some exceptions that are met, like they are a prior convicted felon. But we have people getting out every day that we don’t want released without the federal government at least having an opportunity to put hands on and make their own decision whether these people ought to be released into the streets.”

Nelson said the county as of last week had released 244 such people.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.