Tuesday 20 August 2019

Trump mulls executive order to force question onto census

Not a good look: US President Donald Trump holds a little girl before departing the White House yesterday. Photo: Getty Images
Not a good look: US President Donald Trump holds a little girl before departing the White House yesterday. Photo: Getty Images

Lawrence Hurley

President Donald Trump said he may issue an executive order to add a contentious citizenship question to the 2020 US census as his administration faced a court deadline yesterday to reveal its plans.

The US Justice Department is still considering how to proceed on an effort to add a citizenship question to the 2020 US Census, according to court papers filed yesterday.

In a filing made in Maryland federal court in response to a court deadline, lawyers for the Trump administration indicated that they have not yet finalised a new rationale for adding the query after being blocked in the Supreme Court on June 27.

"We're working on a lot of things including an executive order," Mr Trump told reporters earlier outside the White House as he left for his resort in Bedminster, New Jersey.

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 currently being printed.

Maryland-based US District Court Judge George Hazel told the administration to state its intentions yesterday by 2pm.

Critics have called the citizenship question a Republican ploy to scare immigrants into not participating and engineer a population undercount in Democratic-leaning areas with high immigrant populations. They say that officials lied about their motivations for adding the question and that the move would help Mr Trump's fellow Republicans gain seats in the US House of Representatives and state legislatures when new electoral district boundaries are drawn.

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

He and his supporters say it makes sense to know how many non-citizens are living in the country. His hard-line policies on immigration have punctuated his presidency and 2020 re-election campaign.

"We're spending 15 to 20 billion dollars on a census we're doing everything, we're finding out everything about everybody. Think about it, 15 to 20 billion dollars and you're not allowed to ask them 'are you a citizen?'" Mr Trump said.

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. The court ruled that in theory the government can ask about citizenship on the census and left open the possibility that the administration could offer a plausible rationale to add the question.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Tuesday said the Census Bureau had started the process of printing the questionnaires without the citizenship query, giving the impression that the administration had backed down.

But Mr Trump then ordered a policy reversal via tweet on Wednesday, saying he would fight on, although the government has said the printing process continues.

Irish Independent

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