Wed, 17 Jul 2019

Trump's Fail-safe Plan to Add Citizenship Question to 2020 Census

Voice of America
12 Jul 2019, 04:05 GMT+10

Updated July 11, 10:40 am

WASHINGTON - U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to take executive action Thursday to add a controversial question on citizenship to the country's once-a-decade census next year.

Trump said he is holding a news conference in the Rose Garden at the White House on the census and citizenship and is expected to announce the executive action then.

Two weeks ago, the Supreme Court blocked Trump from adding the question to the census for the first time in 70 years, ruling in a 5-4 decision that his administration's reason for adding it -- to protect voting rights -- seemed "contrived."

The ruling said Trump officials could offer other reasons for adding the question, with the president subsequently saying last week he was considering doing it by executive order, among other ways.

Any Trump executive order unilaterally adding a citizenship question is likely to draw a new legal challenge, with the U.S. Constitution giving Congress, not the president, the right to conduct and oversee the decennial census.

But a Harvard-Harris Poll late last month shows that Trump, even if he were to lose a court fight on adding the question to the census, has political support for the action, with the survey of registered voters showing Americans by a 2-to-1 margin favor asking about citizenship.

The head count of more than 327 million people in the United States is set to start next April and census questionnaires, without the citizenship question, are already being printed. In the U.S., it is an important exercise, determining the state-by-state allocation of the 435 seats in the House of Representatives based on population and the distribution of hundreds of billions of dollars in federal aid to the states.

But opposition Democrats and immigrant groups have attacked Trump's effort to add the question. Demographers, including at the government's Census Bureau, fear that non-citizen immigrants in the U.S. will not fill out the census forms out of fear of identifying themselves as being in the country without documentation and opening themselves up to deportation.

Democrats say that if immigrants are undercounted, seats in the House and federal aid to the states could be redistributed away from Democratic-led cities where immigrants often live to whiter communities where Republicans often reside.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, playing off of Trump's political slogan of "Make America Great Again," says Trump's attempt to add the question is an effort to "Make America White Again."

The Justice Department handling the court fight over the citizenship question attempted this week to switch out its entire team of lawyers, after some attorneys balked at continuing their work on the court case after the Supreme Court ruling.

But two federal judges rejected the switch in the government's legal team, saying it could not do so without satisfactorily explaining why.

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