‘We are pursuing a new option to ensure a complete and timely count of the non-citizen population…’
(AFP) President Donald Trump backed down Thursday on a push to include a citizenship question the 2020 census as left-wing activists continued to challenge the effort in three separate court cases before Obama-appointed judges.
Leftist critics—including many in sanctuary states that have actively encouraged illegal immigrants to violate federal law—sought to exclude the question, which they feared would suppress participation by illegals and reduce funding and political influence determined by the census.
Although Trump had earlier vowed to continue the fight, he faced several other roadblocks, including a tight time-frame for printing the questionnaires amid threats from the Democrat-led House of Representatives that it would hold Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Attorney General William Barr in criminal contempt for the effort.
“We are pursuing a new option to ensure a complete and timely count of the non-citizen population,” the president told a news conference at the White House.
Two weeks ago, the Supreme Court remanded one of the cases back to the lower court in New York, concluding that the Trump administration’s stated reasons for including the question were “contrived,” in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act.
The complex decision also left the door open for the possibility of an ongoing fight, determining that it was within the authority of the Commerce Department to include such a question, even for political reasons, and rebuked the lower court for imposing its value judgment instead of the law.
In response, Trump raised the possibility of forcing the issue with an executive order, or even postponing the census.
The stakes are immense: the census helps determine the disbursement of $675 billion in federal subsidies and the number of seats in the US House of Representatives allocated to each state.
The question was included on every census until 1950, when to streamline the process, the Census Bureau began providing a statistical estimate while issuing a long-form questionnaire with the question to only a representative sample of citizens.
As illegal immigration has escalated to crisis levels, some census officials estimated that between 1.6 and 6.5 million immigrants would choose not to participate or answer truthfully.
As he announced the U-turn, Trump said he would sign an executive order requiring federal agencies to provide the Commerce Department with immigration information from their existing databases.
“It is essential that we have a clear breakdown of the number of citizens and non-citizens that make up the US population. Imperative,” he said.
Liberty Headlines’ Ben Sellers contributed to this report.
© Agence France-Presse