“The Departments of Commerce and Justice have been instructed to examine whether there is a path forward, consistent with the Supreme Court’s decision, that would allow for the inclusion of the citizenship question on the census,” Justice Department lawyers said in a court filing Friday.
In response, U.S. District Judge George Hazel said that he will proceed with the process of discovery, a way for opposing parties to gather evidence, which could determine whether the Trump administration proposed the citizenship question with the intention of discriminating against minorities.
“Plaintiffs’ remaining claims are based on the premise that the genesis of the citizenship question was steeped in discriminatory motive,” Hazel wrote in a court order. “...Regardless of the justification Defendants may now find for a ‘new’ decision, discovery related to the origins of the question will remain relevant.”
On Wednesday, Hazel gave the Justice Department a deadline of 2 p.m. on Friday to explain the administration’s position that the citizenship question was necessary after President Donald Trump abruptly contradicted his administration, declaring in a tweet that “News Reports about the Department of Commerce dropping its quest to put the Citizenship Question on the Census is incorrect [sic].”
Last week, the Supreme Court ruled against the Trump administration proposal to ask 2020 census respondents whether or not they are U.S. citizens, saying that administration officials had not provided an adequate reason for asking this question.
Advocacy groups have said that the question could deter immigrants from participating in the census, which is integral to determining congressional districts and government funding for public resources.
In response to the ruling, the Justice and Commerce Departments confirmed this week that the administration would drop its efforts to put the question on the upcoming census.
But Trump has continued to express his disapproval of the ruling and has urged administration officials to continue pursuing the matter.
Earlier Friday, the president told reporters at the White House that “we’re fighting very hard” against the ruling, saying that he would consider issuing an executive order.
“We have four or five ways we could do it,” he said.
The Census Bureau, which requires years to prepare for the decennial census, began printing forms for the 2020 census this week.
During Wednesday’s chaotic emergency hearing, Justice Department attorney Joshua Gardner explained that Trump’s tweet “was the first I had heard of the president’s position on the issue,” he told Hazel. “Obviously, as you can imagine, I am doing my absolute best to figure out what’s going on.”
This story has been updated with Judge George Hazel’s response to the Trump administration.