Justice Department Still Working to Add Citizenship Question to Census

Justice Department Still Working to Add Citizenship Question to Census

President Donald Trump says he is considering an executive order to try to force inclusion of a citizenship question as part of the 2020 Census.

Why has the issue come back?

The Trump administration is running out of time to get the question on the census, although the president says he might add an "addendum" to the census to ensure the question makes it.

A week after the high court blocked the question and the administration announced it would accept the decision, the Justice Department also indicated Friday that it was seeking a new legal justification to add the citizenship question to the decennial national survey.

Later Friday, Justice Department lawyers formally told U.S. District Judge George Hazel in Maryland the administration is not giving up the legal fight to add the citizenship question to the next census. The Supreme Court ruled last week the question couldn't move forward as-is, because the administration's rationale for adding the question didn't add up and was insufficient.

A group of states including NY and immigrant rights organizations challenged the legality of the citizenship question, arguing among other things that the U.S. Constitution requires congressional districts to be distributed based on a count of "the whole number of persons in each state" with no reference to citizenship.

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter explained at RealClear Politics earlier this year that "the majority of censuses in USA history have inquired about citizenship in one form or another".

The latest legal maneuver faces a tight timeline and numerous hurdles in the courts: Hazel and two other judges have active injunctions against the census including the question based on administrative law violations. It's one of the ways; we have four or five ways we can do it.

Civil rights groups and some states strongly object to the citizenship question proposal, calling it a Republican ploy to scare immigrants into not participating in the census.

Hazel had expressed mounting frustration with the mixed signals the administration was sending, first telling him on Tuesday that the question was off only to have Trump tweet the next day that the administration was "absolutely moving forward" with efforts to include the question.

But the department says it's unclear how that will happen. The Maryland case is separate from the NY case challenging the citizenship question, which went all the way to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court ruled last week that the question could not be included.

The Justice Department declined to answer questions on what rationale they could use to justify adding the question or whether an executive order - which could spark a constitutional crisis - is forthcoming.

The Census Bureau had previously set a target date of early July to begin printing the questionnaire in order to have it prepared for delivery to the American public by the April 1, 2020, deadline. Justices wrote that the administration's decision was a pretext and could not stand.

The ongoing legal wrangling itself could hurt the census, said John Yang, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice.

A federal judge in Maryland overseeing one of the three lawsuits on the citizenship question gave the Trump administration until 2 p.m. today to explain how it meant to proceed.

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