Trump Administration Reverses Course on Citizenship Question in 2020 Census

In a significant turn, the Trump administration announced on July 3 it was looking for ways to include a citizenship question in the 2020 census. The course reversal came a day after the administration said that the upcoming population count would not include the controversial question.

A week before its announcement, the administration was blocked by the Supreme Court, which rejected the government’s reason for adding the question to the upcoming census. Officials, who faced nearing deadlines and a long legal fight, ordered the Census Bureau to begin printing census forms without the citizenship question on July 2, The New York Times initially reported.The Census Bureau maintained that it needed to begin printing census forms by July 1 in order to meet the April 2020 deadline.

A lawyer from the Justice Department informed attorneys leading the court fight in New York that “the decision has been made” to print the former without the question. Printing has already started, the Justice Department and Commerce Department confirmed to CBS News.

“I respect the Supreme Court but strongly disagree with its ruling regarding my decision to reinstate a citizenship question on the 2020 census,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement. “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.”

Despite the announcement, President Donald Trump maintained that his administration would continue their legal fight to add the 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 loving forward, as we must, because of the importance of the answer to this question,” Trump tweeted on July 3.

In a call later that day, Jody Hunt, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s civil division, told US District Judge George J. Hazel of Maryland that the Justice Department believed there could be “a legally available path” to include the citizenship question in the upcoming census. Officials also told the judge that they planned to ask the Supreme Court to help quicken the resolutions of lawsuits impeding the government, The New York Times reported.

Hazel told the Justice Department that he had to announce by Friday, July 5 whether the citizenship question would be included on the census or explain how the administration planned to move forward to comply with the Supreme Court’s ruling, according to ABC News.Delaying the census would have resulted in immediate legal objections. The US Constitution requires that a census be conducted every 10 years. Census results are vital in accurately distributing House of Representative seats, draw political maps, and allocate federal funding.

The Justice Department’s decision placed the future of the 2020 census back on uncertain ground following a yearlong legal battle. Opponents argue that including the citizenship question will undercount noncitizens and minority residents. The undercount would result in areas with more immigrants losing representation and federal funding.

A citizenship question has not been part of the census since 1950, despite claims by the Trump administration that it has “been included in every census since 1965,” NPR reported. The 1950 census asked residents where each person was born and followed up with, “If foreign born—Is he naturalized?”

The question was not included in the 1960 census, which only asked about a person’s place of birth. According to NPR, the Census Bureau began sending two questionnaires in 1970, a short-form questionnaire sent to a majority of households in America and a long-form questionnaire that asked detailed questions, including about citizenship.

In 2005, the Census Bureau added the American Community Survey, which is sent to 3.5 million households every year. Questions in the survey are similar to the census long-form surveys from 1970 to 2000 and include one on citizenship.


About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.