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Trump Backs Down on Census Citizenship Question

Before, well, backing down, Trump threatened to slap a citizenship question on the 2020 U.S. census through an executive order.

by Emma Ockerman
Jul 11 2019, 10:14pm

President Donald Trump said Thursday that he’ll use executive powers to get citizenship data out of people living in America — just not through the means he originally intended.

“We are not backing down on our effort to determine the citizenship status of the United States population,” Trump said in the Rose Garden on Thursday while announcing the executive order to collect inter-agency data that could help determine citizenship.

Before, well, backing down, Trump was expected to slap a citizenship question on the 2020 U.S. census through an executive order, in spite of a Supreme Court order that effectively told his administration to stand down. He repeatedly vowed to continue pursuing a question reading "Is this person a citizen of the United States?" For now, that question isn’t happening, Trump said.

It’s unlikely Trump’s announcement Thursday will put an end to the legal confusion and partisan rancor that’s dominated discussions over collecting citizenship data.

Read: A “Screaming Siren” Went Off at the DOJ over Trump’s Census Citizenship Question

The issue appeared to be resolved in late June, when the Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration lacked solid justification to add a citizenship question to the Census. As a result, the Department of Justice announced the Census would head to the printers without a citizenship question.

But Trump said on Twitter that he had a different plan, and his administration rushed to replace the team of lawyers originally assigned to handle the citizenship case before the High Court. (A federal judge in New York blocked that shake-up, since the administration also lacked justification for switching out lawyers.)

Despite the legal hiccups, Trump has insisted that the citizenship question remains necessary, frequently tying it to his hardline immigration policies.

“As shocking as it may be, far-left Democrats in our country are determined to conceal the number of illegal aliens in our midst,” Trump said Thursday.

Immigration advocates, however, worry that such a question would scare immigrants away and lead to them being undercounted in government data, which is vital for cities and towns asking for federal money based on their population and demographics.

Since he can’t collect the data through the census, Trump said the Census Bureau will instead request records from agencies across the federal government to better determine how many non-citizens reside in the U.S.

"We will leave no stone unturned," Trump said.

But the Census Bureau is already able to scrape data from available government records to determine citizenship data. Trump said his executive order will remove hurdles to get more records that weren’t previously available. It’s unclear what records were previously hard-to-find.

Cover: President Donald Trump speaks during the "Presidential Social Media Summit" in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, July 11, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)