U.S. President Donald Trump contended Wednesday that the government will still try to ask a question about citizenship in the once-a-decade census in 2020, a day after top officials announced they had given up on including the citizenship question following a Supreme Court ruling on the matter last week.
"The News Reports about the Department of Commerce dropping its quest to put the Citizenship Question on the Census is incorrect or, to state it differently, FAKE!" Trump claimed on Twitter. "We are absolutely moving forward, as we must, because of the importance of the answer to this question."
The News Reports about the Department of Commerce dropping its quest to put the Citizenship Question on the Census is incorrect or, to state it differently, FAKE! We are absolutely moving forward, as we must, because of the importance of the answer to this question.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 3, 2019
But his comment sowed confusion about the inclusion of the question, coming after both the Department of Justice and the Commerce Department said they had abandoned the effort for the census that starts April 1. The government has said it already has started printing the questionnaires this week in order to have them all ready for use in nine months.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said, "I respect the Supreme Court but strongly disagree with its ruling regarding my decision to reinstate a citizenship question on the 2020 Census," for the first time since 1950. "The Census Bureau has started the process of printing the decennial questionnaires without the question. My focus, and that of the Bureau and the entire Department, is to conduct a complete and accurate census."
In a 5-4 decision, Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court's four liberal justices in ruling that the reasoning the Trump administration offered for including the citizenship question — that the information was needed to protect minority voting rights — was "contrived" and did not meet the standards for a clear explanation of why it should be asked.
Government officials offered no explanation of why they were dropping their effort to include the question, but were confronting weeks and maybe months of new challenges to the question. The census is important because it determines how many seats in the House of Representatives each state is allotted and how $800 billion in federal aid is disbursed.
Trump's Democratic opponents have claimed that including the question is a Republican ploy to scare immigrants in to not participating in the census out of fear that immigration officials might target them for deportation when they determine that they are in the country illegally. An undercount in Democrat-leaning areas with large immigrant and Latino populations could reduce congressional representation for such states and cut federal aid.
After the Supreme Court heard arguments on the citizenship question but before it ruled, documents emerged from the files of a deceased Republican election districting expert showing that the citizenship question was aimed at helping Republicans gain an electoral edge over Democrats.
Although the citizenship question has not been asked in 70 years, Trump tweeted that it was"A very sad time for America when the Supreme Court of the United States won't allow a question of 'Is this person a Citizen of the United States?' to be asked on the #2020 Census!"
When the high court issued its ruling, Trump called it "totally ridiculous."