Trump mulls 2020 Census citizenship question executive order

by Bamidele Ogunberu Last updated on July 8th, 2019,

Washington: President Trump confirmed to reporters Friday that he’s considering issuing an executive order to add the citizenship question to the census, as he vows to continue to fight against the “system,” as he put it. He also said reporters would find out in about two weeks why Vice President Mike Pence mysteriously canceled a trip to New Hampshire at the last minute.

Mr. Trump made the comments on the White House South Lawn before heading off to his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club Friday morning for the holiday weekend.

The president said he was surprised by the Supreme Court decision that ruled the Commerce Department couldn’t add the question as-is, as the clock runs out for printing the census. But Mr. Trump said there are “four or five” ways his administration could add the question, including an executive order.

Earlier this week, the Commerce Department and Justice Department confirmed the questionnaire is being printed without the question, to which Mr. Trump responded on Twitter that the administration is still pursuing its options. That tweet took his own White House staff, Commerce Department and DOJ by surprise, sending them scrambling over the July 4th holiday. Mr. Trump said he’s spoke with Attorney General William Barr about the matter. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’ job is safe, Mr. Trump also said.

“We could start the printing now and then maybe do an addendum after we get a positive decision,” Mr. Trump told reporters.

The president also suggested reporters would find out in about two weeks why Pence mysteriously had to cancel his trip to address an opioids summit in New Hampshire. The unusual turn of events fueled rampant speculation, although White House aides said it didn’t have to do with national security or Pence’s health.

“There was a very interesting problem that they had in New Hampshire,” the president told reporters Friday, insisting he couldn’t divulge more.

The Bedminster trip comes after Mr. Trump’s “Salute to America” event that emphasized America’s military might Thursday. The president generally stuck to the script in his speech Thursday, recalling history and highlighting iconic Americans. But bouts of rain fell on the crowd, and only ticketed guests were able to get up close. The rest of the public who didn’t have a connection through the administration or the Republican National Committee had to sit far away from the tanks Mr. Trump had promised.

“Nearly 250 years ago, a volunteer army of farmers and shopkeepers, blacksmiths, merchants and militiamen risked life and limb to secure American liberty and self-government,” the president told the crowd. “This evening we have witnessed the noble might of the warriors who continue that legacy. They guard our birthright with vigilance and fierce devotion to the flag and to our great country. Now we must go forward as a nation with that same unity of purpose. As long as we stay true to our course, as long as we remember our great history, as long as we never ever stop fighting for a better future, then there will be nothing that America cannot do.”

Friday’s trip was Mr. Trump’s first of the season to his New Jersey club with summer in full swing and high temperatures at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida.

What is the citizenship question?

“Is this person a citizen of the United States?”

This question has not appeared on a US census for all Americans since 1950, though it has been asked to some subsets of the population between 1970 and 2000.

The population count helps the government draw up districts for state and local elections, and determine how much federal funding each state receives – a matter of hundreds of billions of dollars.

In a 2018 report, Census Bureau researchers found that the inclusion of a citizenship question will likely suppress response rates in households with immigrants and minority groups, leading to a “lower-quality population count”.

But Mr Ross – the billionaire financier who oversees the Census Bureau – insisted that detailed citizenship data is of “greater importance than any adverse effect” posed by an undercount.

Why was citizenship question so controversial?

The heated legal battle over whether to include a citizenship question in the 2020 census has hinged on the motives underlying it.

The White House argued that the decision was made for practical reasons. “When you have a census and you’re not allowed to talk about whether or not somebody’s a citizen or not, that doesn’t sound so good to me,” Mr Trump said to reporters last month.

But critics argue efforts to include the question were politically motivated and say it would have suppressed responses from immigrants and racial minorities.

This would almost certainly benefit the Republican Party when it comes to the drawing-up of districts for elections and calculating how much funding each state receives.

The states with the highest immigration populations, such as California and New Mexico, would have been at the greatest risk of an undercount. Many of these states tend to vote Democrat.

Depressed response rates in these states would allow for electorate boundaries to be redrawn, pulling political power – and funding – away from Democratic-leaning, minority households.

Last week, the Supreme Court wrote in a 5-4 ruling that the Trump administration had not provided adequate justification for the inclusion of the question.

Three federal judges had earlier issued rulings to block the question, one calling it a threat “to the very foundation” of US democracy.

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