The Justice Department affirmed Friday that it still is pursuing a path for adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, according to a filing in federal court in Maryland.
The filing followed statements earlier in the day from President Trump in which he said he is “thinking of” issuing an executive order to add the controversial question.
Government lawyers said in their filing Friday that the Justice and Commerce Departments had been “instructed to examine whether there is a path forward” for the question and that if one was found they would file a motion in the U.S. Supreme Court to try to get the question on the survey to be sent to every U.S. household.
Attorneys for the government and challengers to the addition of the question faced a 2 p.m. deadline set by U.S. District Judge George J. Hazel to lay out their plans.
Hazel said earlier this week that if the government stuck with a plan to try to add the question, he would move ahead on a case before him probing whether the government has discriminatory intent in wanting to ask about citizenship.
The Justice Department lawyers argued in Friday’s filing that there was no need to start producing information in that case since for now courts have barred the government from adding the question. But the government also agreed to follow a schedule to move ahead if that was laid out.
The government has begun printing the census forms without the question, and that process will continue, administration officials said.
Census officials and lawyers at the Justice and Commerce departments scrapped holiday plans and spent Independence Day seeking new legal rationales for a citizenship question that critics say could lead to a steep undercount of immigrants, which could limit federal funding to some communities and skew congressional redistricting to favor Republicans.
“It’s kind of shocking that they still don’t know what they’re doing,” Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund said. MALDEF is representing some of the plaintiffs in the case in Maryland. “We’re in this posture because they don’t know what the real plan is.”
See here for the background. This all began with some Trump tweets, because that’s the hellscape we now inhabit. Literally no one knows what will happen next – the judge even remarked that the Justice Department lead attorney “didn’t speak for his client” – so try some cleansing breaths and do a little binge-watching, to stay calm. TPM, Daily Kos, Think Progress, Mother Jones, and Slate have more.
UPDATE: And then there’s this.
The American Civil Liberties Union and partners today asked a federal court in New York to block the Trump administration from taking any action that would delay the printing of 2020 census forms or change the forms to include the citizenship question.
They have an oral argument date of July 23. Note that this is in the New York court. The hearing yesterday was in the Maryland court. Multiple lawsuits, remember? So there are multiple fronts on which to fight.
UPDATE: And discovery will begin in the Maryland case.