President Donald Trump said on July 5 that he’s considering issuing an executive order to add a question about citizenship to the 2020 Census.
The order is one of “four or five” options on the table, the president told reporters on the White House lawn before departing for Bedminster, New Jersey.
“We’ll see what happens. We could also add an addition on. We could start the printing now and maybe do an addendum, after we get a positive decision. So we’re working on a lot of things, including an executive order.”
“We have a number of avenues we could use—all or one,” the president added.
The Supreme Court ruled on June 27 that the Trump administration didn’t provide an adequate rationale for adding the question. The court nonetheless provided an opportunity for the administration to submit a revised explanation for why the question should be added.
“I have a lot of respect for Justice Roberts. But he didn’t like it, but he did say come back,” Trump said, referring to Chief Justice John Roberts.
There was some uncertainty following the ruling about whether Trump would move to submit the question again. Media reports claimed the administration was giving up on adding the question, but Trump said those reports were “fake news.” On July 4, he wrote that members of the administration were working on potential options even amid Independence Day celebrations.
“So important for our Country that the very simple and basic ‘Are you a Citizen of the United States?’ question be allowed to be asked in the 2020 Census,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Department of Commerce and the Department of Justice are working very hard on this, even on the 4th of July!”
The census is a crucial survey that determines the apportionment of congressional seats, the mapping of congressional district lines, and the distribution of taxpayer-funded federal programs.
The Trump administration’s stated rationale for adding the question was that the Justice Department needed accurate citizenship data to enforce the Voting Rights Act. Inaccurate data has led to the disenfranchisement of minority groups, especially African Americans.
“Not asking the citizenship question on the census has eroded African American political clout in places like Los Angeles. For decades, black Los Angeles residents were demographically squeezed out of local government by a growing Hispanic population of mixed citizenship,” wrote J. Christian Adams, president and general counsel for the Public Interest Legal Foundation, in an op-ed for The Hill.
A former federal judge said if the president were to issue such an order, it would likely be successful legally.
“If the president of the United States were to issue an executive order, supported by his full Article II powers … I believe the Supreme Court would affirm the constitutional power of the president to include the citizenship question in the census,” J. Michael Luttig told Axios.
Trump has previously said he asked administration officials if the census can be delayed.
Democrats who oppose adding the citizenship question allege that it’s a ploy to scare immigrants into not participating and engineer a population undercount in Democratic-leaning areas with high immigrant populations.
Trump and his supporters say it makes sense to know how many noncitizens are living in the country. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) said he supports the president’s move.
“[The president] is absolutely right to renew a push for adding the citizenship question to the 2020 census, consistent with the law and SCOTUS reasoning,” Meadows wrote on July 3 on Twitter. “Every legal option should be pursued so that our country can know how many American citizens live in America.”
Reuters contributed to this report.