On Thursday, President Trump backed away from demanding that the question of citizenship be included on the 2020 census, instead issuing an executive order 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 non-citizens in our country.” Trump took a shot at those who had opposed including the question of citizenship on the 2020 census, saying they were “trying to erase the very existence of a very important word and a very important thing, citizenship” and adding, “The only people who are not proud to be citizens are the ones who are fighting us all the way about the word ‘citizen.’”

The New York Times, taking a victory lap, disparaged the effort to include the citizenship question by carping, “Maps based only on the citizen population would reflect an electorate that is more white and less diverse than the nation at large — and generally more favorable to the Republican Party.”

In late June, the four liberal justices on the Supreme Court were joined by Chief Justice John Roberts in ruling that the Trump administration could not add the citizenship[p question to the 2020 census.

Fox News noted that earlier in the day, before the executive order was announced, Trump had stated, “We spend $20 billion on a census. They go through houses, they go up, they ring doorbells, they talk to people. How many toilets do they have? How many desks do they have? How many beds? What’s their roof made of? The only thing we can’t ask is, are you a citizen of the United States. Isn’t it the craziest thing?”

On Thursday, after he cited the delays that would have eventuated from court actions if he had pushed for the question to be included, Trump stated:

Today, I will be issuing an Executive Order to put this very plan into effect immediately. I’m 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 non-citizens 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. The Census Bureau projected that using previously available records, it could determine citizenship for 90 percent of our population or more. With today’s Executive Order, which eliminates long-standing obstacles to data sharing, we’re aiming to count everyone.

Ultimately this will allow us to have an even more complete count of citizens than through asking the single question alone; it will be, we think, far more accurate. The Census bureau can use this information along with information collected through the questionnaire to create the official census. In other words, as a result of today’s executive order, we will be able to ensure the 2020 census generates an accurate count of how many citizens, non-citizens, and illegal aliens are in the United States of America. Not too much to ask. This will greatly inform a wide array of public policy decisions. This information is also relevant to administering our elections.

Some states may want to draw state and local legislative districts based upon the voter eligible population. Indeed, the same day the Supreme Court handed down the census decision, it also said it would not review certain types of districting decisions which could encourage states to make such decisions based on voter eligibility. With today’s order, we will collect all of the information we need to conduct an accurate census and to make responsible decisions about public policy, voting rights and representation in Congress. In everything we do, we will faithfully represent the people of the United States of America.

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