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Trump says he wants 2020 census delayed after Supreme Court setback on citizenship question

Key Points
  • President Trump says he sought legal advice about delaying the 2020 census after the Supreme Court effectively blocked a question about citizenship status.
  • "Seems totally ridiculous that our government, and indeed Country, cannot ask a basic question of Citizenship in a very expensive, detailed and important Census, in this case for 2020," Trump says on Twitter.
  • The Census Bureau has said it faces a Monday deadline to print the survey, though the bureau's chief scientist has said the deadline may be as late as Oct. 31.
President Donald Trump talks to the media before he departs the White House on June 02, 2019 in Washington, DC.
Tasos Katopodis | Getty Images

President Donald Trump said Thursday he sought legal advice about delaying the 2020 census after the Supreme Court effectively blocked for now his administration's attempt to add a question about citizenship status.

"Seems totally ridiculous that our government, and indeed Country, cannot ask a basic question of Citizenship in a very expensive, detailed and important Census, in this case for 2020," Trump tweeted.

"I have asked the lawyers if they can delay the Census, no matter how long, until the [...] United States Supreme Court is given additional information from which it can make a final and decisive decision on this very critical matter," he wrote.

The Census Bureau has said it faces a Monday deadline to print the survey, though the bureau's chief scientist said in testimony quoted by a federal appeals court this week that the deadline may be as late as Oct. 31. The Constitution mandates the taking of a census every 10 years, and the data is used to allocate billions of dollars in federal funding and the apportionment of the House of Representatives.

The Census Bureau did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Department of Justice spokesperson Kelly Laco said: "We are disappointed by the Supreme Court's decision today. The Department of Justice will continue to defend this Administration's lawful exercises of executive power."

Earlier Thursday, the Supreme Court sent the case over the citizenship question back to a lower court after a five-justice majority — Chief Justice John Roberts and the court's liberals — found that the administration had offered a "contrived" explanation for the addition of the question.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who oversees the census, had argued that the question is needed to better enforce certain provisions of the Voting Rights Act. That explanation was rejected by three federal courts before being tossed out by the justices.

"Altogether, the evidence tells a story that does not match the explanation the Secretary gave for his decision," Roberts wrote.

Critics of the citizenship question argue that it will reduce the accuracy of the survey and undercount minority populations, including immigrants who are in the country legally or otherwise.