President says we are absolutely moving forward contradicting earlier administration statements that the plan had been dropped
Donald Trump has said he plans to move ahead with adding a contentious citizenship question to the 2020 US census, contradicting statements made a day earlier by his own administration including the commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross that the plan had been dropped.
After Trumps announcement, made in a Twitter post, a senior US justice department lawyer told a Maryland-based federal judge overseeing litigation in the matter that the administration was seeking a path forward to add a citizenship question after the supreme court last Thursday blocked it.
In a letter to another federal judge involved in the census question, justice department lawyers wrote that the justice and commerce departments had been asked to reevaluate all available options following the Supreme Courts decision, suggesting that the administration could adopt a new rationale for including the citizenship question.
Trump had earlier written on Twitter: The News Reports about the Department of Commerce dropping its quest to put the Citizenship Question on the census is incorrect or, to state it differently, FAKE! We are absolutely moving forward, as we must, because of the importance of the answer to this question.
In a Maryland court on Wednesday, government officials argued before a federal judge that they thought there would be a way to still add the question. They said they would ask the supreme court to send the case to district court with instructions to remedy the situation.
US district court Judge George Hazel gave the government until Friday to let the court know if it would comply with the supreme court ruling and proceed without the citizenship question, or whether it would continue in its attempt to include the citizenship question.
If thats so, said Denise Hulett, national senior counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (Maldef), the immigrant rights group which brought the Maryland action, it would proceed with its legal case arguing that the governments true reason for insisting on the inclusion of the citizenship question is intentional discrimination.
Hulett said: The White Houses flagrant disregard of court orders is appalling, as reflected in this mornings tweet, and it will result in the same kind of misinformation to the public that leads our communities to be reluctant to participate in the census, at a time when the Census Bureau should be actively encouraging everyones full participation.
She added: The government has an obligation at this point to counter the presidents outlandish statements and to comply with court orders.
The ACLU attorney Dale Ho, who argued the case before the supreme court, also responded to the governments reversal: The administration is now examining whether it can concoct a new rationale for its citizenship question. The answer is no, it cannot at least not a legal one. He added: Any attempt at an end run around the Supreme Courts decision will be unsuccessful, and will be met swiftly in court.
The supreme court found that administration officials had given a contrived rationale for including the query in the decennial population survey. Administration officials including Ross said on Tuesday that census forms were being printed without the question included.
Trumps Twitter post prompted two federal judges in Maryland and New York to ask the DoJ to clarify the administrations position.
Critics have said the citizenship question represents a Republican ploy to scare immigrants into not taking part in the census and engineer an undercount in Democratic-leaning areas with high immigrant and Latino populations.
New Yorks Democratic attorney general Letitia James, who is involved in the legal challenge, said: Another day, another attempt to sow chaos and confusion. The supreme court of the United States has spoken, and Trumps own commerce department has spoken. Its time to move forward to ensure every person in the country is counted.
Trumps hardline policies on immigration have been a key element of his presidency and 2020 re-election campaign.
But Ross, a key figure in the controversy, said in a statement on Tuesday: The Census Bureau has started the process of printing the decennial questionnaires without the question.
White House and commerce department officials had no immediate comment on Trumps tweet.
Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel of Maldef, said that under this administration, theres no accounting for doubling down on stupid.
He said: Unfortunately, and embarrassingly for our nation, todays reversal from yesterdays certainty repeats the pattern of this entire affair, which began with Secretary Wilbur Ross who inexplicably remains in the cabinet lying to Congress and the public about the reason for the late attempted addition of a citizenship question.
Saenz added that the group is fully prepared to demonstrate in court that racism is the true motivation for adding the question, and by doing so, to prevent the question from appearing on the census.