Trump Decides Not to Add Citizenship Question to 2020 Census

By Melanie Arter | July 11, 2019 | 9:46pm EDT
(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

( - President Donald Trump announced Thursday that he is not planning to add the citizenship question to the 2020 Census.

Instead, he is issuing an executive order directing federal agencies to provide the Commerce Department with any relevant information about the number of U.S. citizens and non-citizens in America.


“Today I’m here to say we are not backing down on our effort to determine the citizenship status of the United States population. I stand before you to outline new steps my administration is taking to ensure that citizenship is counted so that we know how many citizens we have in the United States,” the president said in a White House Rose Garden press conference.

“Today, I will be issuing an executive order to put this very plan into effect immediately. I’m hereby ordering every department and agency in the federal government to provide the Department of Commerce with all requested records regarding the number of citizens and non-citizens in our country. They must furnish all legally accessible records in their possession immediately,” Trump said.



“We will utilize these vast federal databases to gain a full, complete, and accurate count of the non-citizen population, including databases maintained by the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration,” the president said.

“We have great knowledge in many of our agencies. We will leave no stone unturned. The Census Bureau projected that using previously available records, it could determine citizenship for 90 percent of our population or more,” he said.

“With today’s executive order, which eliminates long-standing obstacles to data sharing, we’re aiming to count everyone. Ultimately, this will allow us to have an even more complete count of citizens than through asking the single question alone. It will be, we think, far more accurate,” Trump said.

The Census Bureau plans to use the citizenship data from federal agencies to create “the official census.”

“In other words, as a result of today’s executive order, we will be able to ensure the 2020 Census generates an accurate count of how many citizens, non-citizens, and illegal aliens are in the United States of America - not too much to ask,” the president said.

“This will greatly inform a wide array of public policy decisions. This information is also relevant to administering our elections. Some states may want to draw state and local legislative districts based upon the voter-eligible population,” Trump said.

“Indeed, the same day the Supreme Court handed down the census decision, it also said it would not review certain types of districting decisions, which could encourage states to make such decisions based on voter eligibility,” he said.

“With today’s order, we will collect all of the information we need to conduct an accurate census and to make responsible decisions about public policy, voting rights, and representation in Congress,” the president said.

Attorney General Bob Barr explained that the Supreme Court requested that the Trump administration provide the rationale for including the citizenship question in the census and that because of this and other court challenges, the administration does not have time to add the citizenship question to the census.

“In my view, the government has ample justification to inquire about citizenship status on the census, and could plainly provide rationales for doing so that would satisfy the Supreme Court. And therefore, there is no question that a new decision to add the question would ultimately survive legal review,” Barr said.

“The problem is that any new decision would be subject to immediate challenge as a new claim in the three ongoing district court cases. In addition, there are injunctions currently in place that forbid adding the question,” the attorney general said.

“There is simply no way to litigate these issues and obtain relief from the current injunctions in time to implement any new decision without jeopardizing our ability to carry out the census, which we're not going to do. We're not going to jeopardize our ability to carry out the census,” he said.

Barr noted that the media has been speculating that the Trump administration planned to add the citizenship question “by executive fiat without regard to contrary court orders or what the Supreme Court might say.”

“This has been based on rank speculation and nothing more,” he said. “As should be obvious, this has never been under consideration. We have always accepted that any new decision to add a citizenship question to the census would be subject to judicial review.”

“So as a practical matter, the Supreme Court's decision closed all paths to adding the question to the 2020 census. Put simply, the impediment was not -- it was a logistical impediment, not a legal one. We simply cannot complete the litigation in time to carry out the census,” Barr said.

The attorney general said the president’s decision “will bring unprecedented resources to bear on determining how many citizens and non-citizens are in our country and will yield the best data the government has had on citizenship in many decades.”

“That information will be used for countless purposes, as the President explained in his remarks today,” Barr said. “For example, there is a current dispute over whether illegal aliens can be included for apportionment purposes. Depending on the resolution of that dispute, this data may be relevant to those considerations. We will be studying this issue.”


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