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story.lead_photo.caption President Donald Trump, followed by Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, arrives Thursday at the White House Rose Garden. Trump said his political opponents were “trying to erase the very existence of a very important word and a very important thing, citizenship.”

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump on Thursday abandoned his attempt to place a question about citizenship on the 2020 census and instructed the government to compile citizenship data instead from existing federal records.

Trump announced in the Rose Garden at the White House that he was giving up on modifying the census two weeks after the Supreme Court rebuked the Trump administration over its effort to do so. Last week, Trump had insisted that his administration "must" pursue that goal.

"We are not backing down on our effort to determine the citizenship status of the United States population," Trump said Thursday.

He said he would be signing an executive order directing every federal department and agency to provide the Commerce Department with all records pertaining to the number of citizens and noncitizens in the country, including the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration.

The Census Bureau already has access to Social Security, food-stamp and federal prison records, all of which contain citizenship information.

Trump, citing Census Bureau projections, predicted that using previously available records, the administration could determine the citizenship of 90% of the population "or more."

"Ultimately this will allow us to have a more complete count of citizens than through asking the single question alone," he said.

Trump said his political opponents were "trying to erase the very existence of a very important word and a very important thing, citizenship."

"The only people who are not proud to be citizens are the ones who are fighting us all the way about the word 'citizen,'" he added.

The Trump administration has argued that including the question on census forms is an important part of its efforts to protect the voting rights of the nation's residents who are members of minority groups, but the Supreme Court rejected that justification as a "contrived" pretext.

Government experts have predicted that asking the question would result in many migrants refusing to participate in the census, leading to an undercount of millions of people. That could reduce Democratic representation when congressional districts are allocated in 2021 and affect how hundreds of billions of dollars in federal spending are distributed.

In a statement, a Justice Department spokesman said the department would "promptly inform the courts" that the government would not seek to include a citizenship question in the census.

The Census Bureau has said it could produce better citizenship data without adding the question.

The bureau had recommended combining information from the annual American Community Survey with records held by other federal agencies that already include citizenship records.

"This would result in higher quality data produced at lower cost," Census Bureau Deputy Director Ron Jarmin wrote in a December 2017 email to a Justice Department official.

But Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who oversees the Census Bureau, ultimately rejected that approach and ordered the citizenship question be added to the census.

The American Community Survey, which polls 3.5 million U.S. households every year, already includes questions about respondents' citizenship.

Some Democrats complained Thursday that the public debate itself might have sown fear among migrants in the country and could taint their view of the census, even if it does not include a citizenship question.

Following Trump to the Rose Garden podium, U.S. Attorney General William Barr said that any administration move to modify the census would have survived legal review, but only after a lengthy process that would have jeopardized the administration's ability to conduct the census in a timely manner.

"Put simply, the impediment was a logistical impediment, not a legal one," Barr said. "We simply cannot complete the litigation in time to carry out the census."

Trump criticized Democrats in his announcement Thursday.

"As shocking as it may be, far-left Democrats in our country are determined to conceal the number of illegal aliens in our midst," he said. "They probably know the number is far greater, much higher than anyone would have ever believed before. Maybe that's why they fight so hard. This is part of a broader left-wing effort to erode the rights of the American citizen and is very unfair to our country."

Dale Ho, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Voting Rights Project, said in a statement that Trump's "attempt to weaponize the census ends not with a bang but a whimper."

"He lost in the Supreme Court, which saw through his lie about needing the question for the Voting Rights Act," said Ho, who argued the Supreme Court case. "It is clear he simply wanted to sow fear in immigrant communities and turbocharge Republican gerrymandering efforts by diluting the political influence of Latino communities."

In his announcement, Trump also said states could use the data he has ordered to be collected to draw voting districts in a new way. States currently draw districts so that they contain equal numbers of people, whether or not they are eligible to vote. Trump suggested that states will soon have information to allow them to draw districts based on equal numbers of eligible voters.

"Some states," he said, "may want to draw state and local legislative districts, based upon the voter eligible population."

If people ineligible to vote were evenly distributed, the difference between counting all people and counting only eligible voters would not matter. But demographic patterns vary widely.

Places with large numbers of residents who cannot vote -- including children, immigrants who are in the United States legally but are not citizens, unauthorized migrants and people disenfranchised after committing felonies -- on the whole tend to be urban and to vote Democratic. Districts based on equal numbers of eligible voters would generally move political power away from cities and toward older and more homogeneous rural areas that tend to vote for Republicans.

Opponents of the citizenship question swiftly condemned Thursday's announcement, calling Trump's position largely a face-saving measure.

"This news conference was total propaganda," said Vanita Gupta, the former head of the Justice Department's civil-rights division and the chief executive of the Leadership Conference.

"The government already has access to all of this citizenship data through administrative records, and already studies it," Gupta said. "Trump just didn't want to admit defeat."

Information for this article was contributed by Katie Rogers, Adam Liptak and Michael Crowley of The New York Times; and by Jill Colvin, Mark Sherman, Zeke Miller, Darlene Superville and Matthew Daly of The Associated Press.

A Section on 07/12/2019

Print Headline: Trump gives up census fight; citizenship data search is new plan

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Archived Comments

  • RBear
    July 12, 2019 at 6:20 a.m.

    Let's just go through this article to see how idiotic Trump's move was. "The Census Bureau already has access to Social Security, food-stamp and federal prison records, all of which contain citizenship information. Trump, citing Census Bureau projections, predicted that using previously available records, the administration could determine the citizenship of 90% of the population 'or more.'"
    ...
    But, last year the Census Bureau proposed that very approach and was rejected by Sec. Ross (and most likely Trump). "The Census Bureau has said it could produce better citizenship data without adding the question. The bureau had recommended combining information from the annual American Community Survey with records held by other federal agencies that already include citizenship records. 'This would result in higher quality data produced at lower cost,' Census Bureau Deputy Director Ron Jarmin wrote in a December 2017 email to a Justice Department official."
    ...
    When administration attorneys tried to make their case before SCOTUS, they struggled and failed to justify the move. "The Trump administration has argued that including the question on census forms is an important part of its efforts to protect the voting rights of the nation's residents who are members of minority groups, but the Supreme Court rejected that justification as a 'contrived' pretext."
    ...
    But what is most disturbing has been the reaction of the right wing to the issue. In these boards, people like Doug and others have stated, parroting Trump, that having a citizenship question is key to congressional allocation. That is false and a blatant ignorance of our Constitution which states in Article I Section 2 that all FREE persons, which included citizens and non-citizens, be counted to determine the allocation.
    ...
    Then there are people like Pack who chastise others on this, saying they don't want to know who is legal or illegal. Once again, issue ignorance on the matter as a question asking whether you are a citizen or not does not determine legal status. It reveals the real motive behind this question which is not to protect voting rights.

  • Illinoisroy
    July 12, 2019 at 8:20 a.m.

    Citizenship question on the census form issue is his insurance policy to delegitimize 2020 election if he were to lose. Remember his tweets leading up to the 2016 election?If he refuses to leave office after election we will really see how much his base loves America.
    Love it our leave it!

  • Packman
    July 12, 2019 at 10:04 a.m.

    Normal Americans believe it's important to know how many foreign trespassers reside in this country and see the opposition to such a common sense notion as absurd. Trump may win 40 states.

  • joedog
    July 12, 2019 at 10:17 a.m.

    The kind of Reality TV clown show we have come to expect. Clowns can understand these clown shows, but nobody else can. Really worried about these clowns.

  • RBBrittain
    July 12, 2019 at 10:40 a.m.

    The problem is if you ask that question in the Census it actually discourages its constitutional purpose of "counting the whole number of persons in each State" -- INCLUDING undocumented aliens -- excluding ONLY "Indians not taxed" (not many of those anymore). The whole point of the citizenship question was to discourage responses, thus favoring Republicans both directly AND by attempting to base apportionment on eligible voters, instead of total population as the Constitution requires at least for the House. The question as written also would NOT have properly tracked DOCUMENTED aliens, thus it wouldn't have even served the purpose Packman claims. This is Trump trying to spin himself out from between a rock (the Supreme Court's ruling, which mostly favored the President but rejected AG Barr's voting rights claim as pretextual) and a hard place (the July 1 deadline to start printing forms for the Census, which by law & constitutional precedent MUST happen in April 2020).

  • RBear
    July 12, 2019 at 10:41 a.m.

    Pack says, "Normal Americans believe it's important to know how many foreign trespassers reside in this country and see the opposition to such a common sense notion as absurd." Actually truly normal Americans would understand a citizenship question would not determine if someone was legal or not. Only those like Pack who are issue illiterate jump to this false conclusion.
    ...
    So, tell me Pack. How does answering where one is a citizen or not tell you if the person is legal or not?

  • Illinoisroy
    July 12, 2019 at 12:01 p.m.

    Packy,
    Put down the Kool-Aid, it is affected your cognitive skills.

  • Packman
    July 12, 2019 at 12:09 p.m.

    Hey RBear - You're conflating terms, but that's OK. Again, it's just common sense to have the citizenship question on the census and to try to determine how many illegal trespassers are residing in the US. Normal Americans understand. RBear believes humans can change their gender as easily as they can change their species. Is RBear normal?

  • RBear
    July 12, 2019 at 12:20 p.m.

    Pack says, "You're conflating terms." Actually I'm not. You went on to say, "It's just common sense to have the citizenship question on the census and to try to determine how many illegal trespassers are residing in the US. Normal Americans understand."
    ...
    Here's the scenario. A person is either a citizen or they are not. That's the question that was proposed. You contend it would identify illegals and have since the beginning of this discussion. However, a person can answer no and still be legal. So, your defense of your statement shows how utterly ignorant you are on this.
    ...
    Then again, reading comprehension has always been a problem with you.

  • wowy
    July 12, 2019 at 12:52 p.m.

    TRUMP IS TTHE GOD-MAN . . .
    His Words Burn The Hearts and Minds
    of ordinary Americans who have been
    brainwashed by CNN and it’s sister
    whore MSNBC ...
    If the whores at cnn and the stags at manbcmsnbc (if there are any)
    Ever copulate I couldn’t say for sure what it would be but it would look like brear ends morning sit down ...

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