President Trump ordered federal departments and agencies Thursday afternoon to hand over relevant data on the number of citizens and non-citizens in the country in light of the legal block on including a citizenship question on the 2020 census.
Speaking in the Rose Garden after the president, Attorney General William Barr said the government can provide the necessary rationale to the U.S. Supreme Court for including the question on the census.
But he explained that expected court challenges would cause a delay in carrying out the census.
Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily blocked the Trump administration from restoring the question to the census.
The attorney general said the Supreme Court’s ruling “closed all paths” to adding the question to the 2020 count.
Barr explained that by separately compiling citizenship information through existing databases, the government will be able to ensure the 2020 Census provides an accurate count of how many non-citizens are in the country.
Trump said in his announcement of the executive order that “far-left Democrats are determined to conceal the number of illegal aliens in our midst.”
Hispanics favor question
His administration’s effort to restore the citizenship question on the national census has been regarded by critics as an “attack on immigrants,” particularly Latinos.
However, a new poll finds a majority of Hispanic voters, along with two-thirds of voters overall, approve of a citizenship question on the 2020 census.
Democratic lawmakers contend the question would discourage participation in the census in Latino communities. But the survey by the Harvard University Center for American Political Studies and the Harris polling company found that 55 percent of Hispanic voters favor including the question on the census. Overall, 67 percent of registered U.S. voters say the census should include the question.
“We are absolutely moving forward, as we must, because of the importance of the answer to this question,” he wrote on Twitter.
The administration cites enforcement of the Voting Rights Act as the reason for adding the citizenship question. Its lawyers argue it’s needed to have an accurate count of citizen voting-age populations in every congressional district.
Immigrant advocacy organizations contend it might deter non-citizens from answering the census, creating an “undercount.”
On Tuesday, the Washington Times reported, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway challenged Democrats who oppose the question.
“I would ask the Democrats — I hear they’re screaming rhetoric — I would ask what are you afraid of?” she asked.
“Why wouldn’t you want to know who’s living in this country, and who’s a citizen and who’s not a citizen?”