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President Trump announced Thursday that he’s backing down from his legal fight to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. Instead, he'll use an executive order to demand citizenship information from other government agencies. Yamiche Alcindor, Lisa Desjardins and Amna Nawaz join Judy Woodruff to discuss that development as well as news on Trump’s immigration policy and social media summit.
President Trump says he is backing down from his legal fight to add a controversial citizenship question to the 2020 census.
The Supreme Court had already ruled that the administration's previous explanations didn't justify adding the question.
In remarks in the White House Rose Garden late today, the president said he is pursuing new avenues to get that information.
President Donald Trump:
We are pursuing a new option to ensure a complete and timely count of the non-citizen population.
Today, I will be issuing an executive order to put this very plan into effect immediately. I am hereby ordering every department and agency in the federal government to provide the Department of Commerce with all requested records regarding the number of citizens and noncitizens in our country.
They must furnish all legally accessible records in their possession immediately. We will utilize these vast federal databases to gain a full, complete and accurate count of the non-citizen population, including databases maintained by the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration.
We have great knowledge in many of our agencies. We will leave no stone unturned.
We turn now for more to three of our "NewsHour" correspondents, Yamiche Alcindor, who is at the White House, plus Amna Nawaz and Lisa Desjardins here with me in the studio.
Yamiche, let me come to you.
The president had been, it seemed, determined to add this citizenship question one way or another to the census. Now he's backed down. Why?
Well, this is a big loss for President Trump.
And he's essentially admitting that he can't argue for the citizenship question to be added to the census in time without jeopardizing the census itself. The Supreme Court ruled that the administration's reasoning was essentially contrived and that they were arguing that the Voting Rights Act needed to be better enforced, that, of course, being the Voting Rights Act that's supposed to be prohibiting racial discrimination on — in voting.
That argument didn't fly. And the president and the government had been scrambling to come up with a solution. Instead, the president saying now, essentially, they can't do that without essentially putting at risk the census. The census is already being printed.
Now, critics say that this is already a chilling effect, because the census is tied directly to how we distribute money in this country, how we draw congressional lines, and it's tied to the Electoral College. So there's already, some people fear, a chilling effect that immigrants will not want to fill out the census.
But, that said, the president essentially is conceding here that he just can't get done what he wanted to do.
So, Yamiche, by asking all government agencies to turn this information about citizens, non-citizens over to the Commerce Department, what exactly is the president trying to do?
The president is essentially now asking every single agency in the federal government to turn over whatever records they have on citizenship or non-citizenship to the Commerce Department, so that they can now have some sort of database where they can make a sort of official count of who's an immigrant and essentially who's not an immigrant in this country.
That being said, there are people who essentially say that this is about the president, in some ways, spreading fear in the immigrant community. Immigration activists that I have been talking to say, this dovetails with a lot of other things that the administration is doing, that it's not happening in a vacuum.
So you look at the idea that the president is trying to change the way that asylum works in this country. The president's also having these detention facilities that people say have Troubling conditions, but he's also now targeting immigrant families for some sort of mass raids going on this weekend.
So people are saying that this is part of the president really trying to strike fear into the hearts of immigrants. And that is, unfortunately, working.
Yamiche, and we are going to try to come back to you in a minute.
But, meantime, Amna, you have been talking to Homeland Security officials. What do we know about whether there may be these massive roundups or raids of immigrants over the weekend?
Yes, Yamiche is exactly right. This is a key issue for the administration.
We know the president has tweeted about mass raids like this before. It looks more likely now for a few reasons. Look, ICE is basically saying they're targeting getting people who are here undocumented and who have been given final removal orders.
What that means is, they came to the United States, they made a claim of protection of some kind, asylum or something else. That was denied by a court. They're now ready to be deported. And there's a backlog of these people, several hundred thousand or so.
It's an enormous logistical undertaking to run this kind of raid; 2,000 people or so are expected to be targeted in cities across the country, weeks of investigative effort to figure out where they live, verify their addresses, make sure kids aren't going to be abandoned if parents are picked up…
These are families.
They are families. They are indeed.
Now, what are the reasons we think ICE is able to do something like this right now is what a senior DHS official told me yesterday. Those record border crossings we were seeing in previous months, they dipped slightly last month . That took pressure off the entire system. They're no longer surged past capacity in terms of detention beds.
They believe they have the space to go get some of these people, detain them, and then properly deport them through the channels. One of the reasons they're getting pushback, though, is a lot of those removal order are issued in what's called in absentia, meaning people weren't there in the court when those orders were issued by a judge.
They don't know if people even know that they are supposed to be deported. This happens a lot within immigrant communities. There's already a legal challenge trying to protect those people from deportation.
So, Amna, we know some in the Trump administration are saying, this is not new. Previous administrations have rounded up immigrants before.
What is the case? What's the truth about that?
Well, that's absolutely true.
I mean, President Obama earned the nickname deporter in chief because he deported more people than any previous president; 2,000 people doesn't seem like that many. It's a lot for a short period of time. ICE says they have the capacity to be able to do that.
But, look, the other problem is that, in detention, there's been so many concerns about those conditions, as Yamiche mentioned earlier, allegations of abuse, squalid conditions, how children are properly cared for or not cared for and family detention.
There's a number of reasons there's concern about additional people being brought into ICE custody and detention right now.
So, Lisa, let me turn to you now.
We have seen much of this before. Democrats and others in Congress are pushing back. What are they doing?
We're seeing Democrats flex more muscle. I think this is sort of phase two of how they're trying to confront this president, as the opposition party.
We saw just today the House Judiciary Committee authorized subpoenas for 12 very high-ranking current and former Trump administration officials. This includes Jared Kushner, also former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, former Chief of Staff John Kelly.
This is — these people couldn't be questioned on two things, one, their relations to the Mueller report, but also, Judy, these subpoenas directly talk about the zero tolerance policy and child separation at the border.
These Democrats are saying, we have not gotten satisfying answers from Homeland Security or the Trump administration in terms of what it is doing, is it legal? And they will now subpoena these officials.
Of course, the problem is, we have seen the Trump administration — the problem for Democrats — has said they don't feel that they need to comply with things subpoenas.
So Democrats are also taking another step there. Next week, they have announced they will take a vote on the House floor to file criminal contempt against Attorney General Barr and also the commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, for their noncompliance, in the view of the House, with subpoenas about the census question.
And so this will be a very — this is — kind of is closest to clear combat as you can get in a legislative sense. Now, then that goes to the courts. And this takes a long time to enforce. But Democrats are stepping things up.
One other note, Judy, about these ICE raids. You and Amna hit on such a key point that I have heard from Republicans today, notably. Republicans are a little nervous about these ICE raids, because they are worried about, in their communities, they see labor shortages. They have seen in the past large raids like this, even under Obama, affect families and communities in very difficult ways.
And they are concerned about how this will be enacted. I talked to multiple Republicans who are just unsure and worried about how this goes. They're watching very carefully.
Very interesting, being watched from so many different directions.
As if this weren't enough going on at the White House today, Yamiche, I want to come back to you, because the president hosted something that the White House had talked about. This was a summit to discuss social media and what is allowed and what isn't.
Tell us about what took place there at that gathering.
The goal of this social media summit at the White House today was really to argue that conservatives are being unfairly targeted and discriminated against by social media giants like Twitter and Facebook.
Now, neither one of those companies were invited to this social media gathering. The president says he wants to invite those companies to the White House later on. But the president was essentially saying, we don't want to be censored as Republicans.
And he was saying that people that are pro-life, that are pro-Trump, their accounts are being targeted and even being pulled down. There are people, of course, that disagree with that view. There are people who say this was really a gathering of far right individuals and at times bad Internet actors.
One person that was at the White House today was a Twitter user who spread the racist idea that Senator Kamala Harris wasn't black enough to speak for African-Americans because her mother's Indian and her father is Jamaican.
So there's a lot of back and forth on this. There are a lot of people who think this wasn't a good gathering, and that other people should have been more — invited to this, that this should have been a more inclusive setting.
So, overall, there are a lot of complaints about this. But, in a few weeks, there will be some social media sites coming to the White House. So that will continue to develop.
And then just quickly, Amna Nawaz, you have done some reporting about that gathering and some of the language that was used there today.
Some of those people Yamiche mentioned who they self-identify as conservative, or also identified by people who track extremist or dangerous rhetoric online as alt-right or far right or extremist kind of views, they were in the room, some of them aligned with white nationalist kind of language as well.
And there was a recent study by a group called the Institute for Strategic Dialogue which looked at how — and this is around the world, but also true here in the U.S. — a lot of that language that previously existed only really on the far right fringes has become much more mainstream, particularly through the use of social media.
So that was something they were watching today and a trend that they have been seeing increasing around the world, as I said, but really here in the U.S. as well.
Disturbing news on so many fronts today.
Thank you, all three, Amna Nawaz, Lisa Desjardins, Yamiche Alcindor at the White House. Thank you.
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