Trump to order citizenship question on census, despite Supreme Court

USA TODAY

Published 9:06 AM EDT Jul 11, 2019

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump plans to announce executive action Thursday to include a citizenship question on the 2020 U.S. census, a move that would trigger more litigation and seems to defy a Supreme Court decision from just two weeks ago.

"We will all go to the beautiful Rose Garden for a News Conference on the Census and Citizenship," Trump said in a tweet promoting a social media summit that he is hosting Thursday.

An executive order to include the citizenship question would undoubtedly be challenged in court by organizations who say the administration is deliberately trying to undercount minorities, making it easier to draw Republican-friendly congressional districts.

Trump is expected announce executive action to allow a citizenship question, two administration officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity in deference to the president's announcement.

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In its June 27 ruling, the Supreme Court said the administration had not justified its support for a citizenship question, and it sent the matter back to the Commerce Department. The administration could come up with a new justification and re-litigate the issue, but that could take months. 

Groups that had sued the government over the citizenship question said the Trump administration is simply trying to evade the Supreme Court decision.

Many recipients won't respond to the census if a citizenship question is included, these groups have said, leading to undercounts – which, they said, is the goal of the Trump administration.

Counting fewer minorities, they said, will make it easier for Republicans to draw congressional districts to their liking.

Trump and aides have said the U.S. is entitled to know how many citizens are in the country.

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In a case decided by a 5-4 vote, Chief Justice John Roberts said he did not find the administration's justification for the question to be credible. The administration had said it needed citizenship data to help prepare for voting rights cases, even though Trump's team has yet to engage in that kind of litigation.

Trump and his allies said that Roberts, in citing the reasoning for the citizenship question rather than the question itself, left the door open for a re-hearing of the case under a new justification.

"Essentially, he said, 'come back,'" Trump told reporters last week. "We'll see what happens."

Shortly after the Supreme Court ruling, Trump administration officials had indicated they planned to drop the entire matter and print the census without a citizenship question.

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Trump's own Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross issued a statement saying that "the Census Bureau has started the process of printing the decennial questionnaires without the question" about citizenship.

In addition, a Justice Department attorney advised lawyers in the case that "the decision has been made" to print census forms without the citizenship question, and to forgo any attempt to re-litigate the issue.

Then Trump issued a defiant tweet on July 3, claiming that news reports about dropping the matter were "fake."

"We are absolutely moving forward, as we must," he said, "because of the importance of the answer to this question."

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