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As census goes to print, Trump administration isn’t giving up on citizenship question

After a Supreme Court decision left open the possibility of justifying the addition of a citizenship question on the 2020 U.S. census, the Trump administration is exploring ways to do just that. Yamiche Alcindor joins Judy Woodruff to discuss the options being considered by the White House and the Justice Department, including a survey addendum, executive order and going back to the Supreme Court.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    As we reported earlier, the Trump administration is still exploring how to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

    Yamiche Alcindor is here to explain the options being considered by the White House and the Justice Department.

    Hello, Yamiche.

    So what more have you learned in your reporting about what the administration is doing, why it's doing this and, frankly, how they see the justification for it?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    The president's strategy when it comes to the citizenship question on the census is to push forward and try to find some way, somehow to get it on the census.

    I want to play for you what his justification is from earlier today when he was speaking outside the White House.

  • Donald Trump:

    Well, you need it for many reasons. Number one, you need it for Congress. You need it for Congress, for districting. You need it for appropriations.

    Where are the funds going? How many people are there? Are they citizens? Are they not citizens? You need it for many reasons.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    So, even though the president is saying there are many, many reasons why you need this question on the census, the Supreme Court last week simply said — quote — that the government had a "contrived" reason for having the citizenship question the census.

    So there has not been a real reason that can pass the courts. So the president, though he's spelling this out, is still scrambling for a reason.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, this has clearly pitted some strong political opponents against one another. What are the politics of this?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, the question about the citizenship, whether or not it gets on the census, is really a political battle. And it's over the Electoral College.

    The census is used to determine congressional delegations. And that also, of course, reflects on the Electoral College and, of course, how we elect the president of the United States. So the president is essentially saying, we need to know all the people that are in the United States, we know if they're citizens or not.

    But opponents say this is really about undercounting or forcing undercounting people all across the country. They worry that immigrants that are not citizens will be scared and won't fill out the census. And as a result, you have congressional delegations that are smaller than the actual populations.

    That said, it really does — this really is going to be a political fight, because Democrats feel very strongly that this essentially should not be on the census, while Republicans seem to be backing the president in this fight.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Yamiche, we know that today was the day a judge, a federal judge in Maryland, they had said 2:00 today the administration has to enter a written agreement that confirmed it's no longer pursuing the citizenship question on the census.

    What's the status of this legal case?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    The status of the legal case is that lawyers are still scrambling for a way to give the president what he wants, which is a reason to put this citizenship question on the census.

    They have told judges both today, but also this week, that the situation is fluid, because they're trying to really look at all options on the table to figure out a way to make — to give the president what he wants.

    But, essentially, they have not come up with a path forward. So what we're seeing is the government saying, look, we want to come up with a reason, we're not sure yet what that's going to be. The government has also said that they're going to go straight to the Supreme Court.

    So, essentially, this is going to play out in the courts. And the president has said he might take executive action, but that, again, might end up in the courts.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, as you have been reporting, the president seems committed to this. So what happens next?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    What happens next and what's happening now is that the census is already being printed as we speak without the citizenship question. There is a deadline of roughly reports from The New York Times and NPR saying that October 31 is the drop-dead deadline.

    But, this week, the people that are suing the government saying that they don't want the question the census, they asked for a drop-dead deadline, and there wasn't one provided. So even as this goes back and forth, there already is ticking time really to try to get this done.

    The president has said this might be some sort of addendum. So there might be an extra sheet of paper that people get with their census. But, as of now, it's going forward without it.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    They're printing it without this question?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So we will see.

    Yamiche Alcindor, thank you.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Thanks.

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