U.S. President Donald Trump will do everything within his legal authority to determine and make public who is in the United States legally and who is not, White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said on Thursday.
Gidley declined to comment on a report by ABC News that the president was going to back down from his effort to put a question on the 2020 census about respondents’ citizenship status, an idea that has been challenged in court by some states and civil rights groups as discriminatory.
“It should come as no surprise … that the president wants to know who’s in this country legally and lawfully and who isn’t.
“And he’s going to do everything within his legal authority to make sure that that information is known, because the American people have a right to know,” Gidley told reporters.
U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday was expected to reverse course and drop plans to add a contentious citizenship question to the 2020 census, but order the government do the survey by other means, ABC News reported.
White House officials declined to comment ahead of the president’s remarks, which were scheduled for 5 p.m. (2100 GMT).
Trump was expected to announce some type of executive action to survey the American public on whether or not they are U.S. citizens, but how that would work was not immediately clear.
The administration’s attempts to add the question had been blocked in the courts because of challenges from some U.S. states and civil rights groups.
The census is used to determine how many seats each state gets in the U.S. House of Representatives and also affects how billions of dollars in federal funds are doled out across the country.
Should the citizenship question be asked?
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Critics say that asking about citizenship in the census discriminates against racial minorities and is aimed at giving Republicans an unfair advantage in elections.
Trump and his supporters say it makes sense to know how many non-citizens are living in the country.
The expected announcement follows the government’s acknowledgement in court last week that census forms continued to be printed without the question, in compliance with the Supreme Court’s order last month.
In a majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that the administration’s previous stated reasoning that it wanted the question added to better enforce the Voting Rights Act, “seems to have been contrived.”
However, Roberts also left open the possibility that the question could still be added if the administration presented a rationale that was sufficient.
Following that decision, the Justice and Commerce Departments announced last week that they were dropping any renewed effort to add the citizenship question.
But they reversed course after President Trump tweeted that his administration was “absolutely moving forward” with efforts to include the question, sending DOJ lawyers scrambling to work up a new strategy that they could argue in the ongoing New York, Maryland and California cases.
The Justice Department then made a surprise announcement Sunday evening that it planned to completely replace its legal teams arguing those cases, raising speculation that some of the attorneys involved felt uncomfortable with the administration’s path forward.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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