Published: Sat, July 06, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Justice Department presses for census citizenship question

Justice Department presses for census citizenship question

President Donald Trump said Friday he was weighing an executive order to overcome a Supreme Court ruling blocking his administration from adding a question about citizenship to the 2020 USA census, which opponents say is politically motivated. Two issues that could determine the distribution of political power for the next decade await resolution on the Supreme Court's final day of decisions before a long summer break.

Trump on Friday said the "number one" reason for adding the question was for the drawing of electoral districts, which is not the legal reason the administration originally gave for adding it.

According to the Washington Post, after the Supreme Court ruled against adding the question to the census, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross confirmed the department began printing the forms without the question on it.

Trump on Friday said he's considering invoking an executive order to include the citizenship question on the census.

The administration argued for evidence gathering for the Maryland-based lawsuits to be put on hold while the administration continues searching for a new reason to add the question.

But with a series of tweets, Trump injected uncertainty back into the citizenship question matter: "We are absolutely moving forward, as we must, because of the importance of the answer to this question".

But on Wednesday Trump stunned his own Commerce and Justice Departments, announcing via Twitter that he would continue fighting to add the question.

"It's one of the ways that we're thinking about doing it, very seriously", he said, despite the fact that the government has already begun the process of printing the census questionnaire without that question.

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Trump administration officials have been scrambling in the aftermath of a Supreme Court ruling on June 27 that blocked the inclusion of the question, saying administration officials had given a "contrived" rationale for including it.

"We'll see what happens", Trump told reporters Friday as he set out for a long weekend at his summer retreat in New Jersey.

U.S. District Judge George Hazel-currently presiding over a separate case in Maryland that claims the question was racially motivated-asked Justice Department lawyers to state definitively what the administration is doing by 2 p.m.

Hours later Justice Department lawyers told a lower court judge that they were blindsided by Trump's tweet.

The Trump administration had said the question was being added to aid in the enforcement of the Voting Rights Act, which protects minority voters' access to the ballot box.

He also suggested that a query on the decennial population survey about citizenship could be added at a later date even if it is not on the questionnaire now being printed.

Judge Hazel demanded the government present its plan by Friday afternoon, forcing lawyers to work through the July 4 holiday to come up with a new rationale that they hoped could pass muster with the Supreme Court. The court took the rare step of taking up the case directly from a trial court in NY before an appeals court had weighed in.

"Regardless of the justification defendants may now find for a "new" decision, discovery related to the origins of the question will remain relevant", Hazel wrote, referencing the legal process for gathering evidence.

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