Local professor says '50/50' chance citizenship question appears on 2020 census

Updated: July 04, 2019 06:49 PM

A day after President Donald Trump contradicted top officials in his own administration, saying the fight to include a citizenship question on the 2020 census was not over, experts including a local political science professor say the president could still get his way.

Multiple reports say President Trump could use an executive order to put a citizenship question on the next census, likely sending the fight back to the Supreme Court which struck down the question last week.

"It's all up in the air," said Steven Schier, a professor of political science at Carleton College in Northfield.

RELATED: 2020 Census to be printed without citizenship question

"This has been a central theme of the Trump presidency and the Trump campaign in 2016. It was all about citizenship and immigration. He does not want to let this issue go," said Schier, who added that he thinks the president's chances of prevailing are now a "50/50 proposition."

"If there is an avenue by which this ends up on the census, it will be an unprecedented avenue, but on the other hand, we've got an unprecedented presidency," Schier said.

Trump's determination to not let the issue go became apparent on Wednesday when he used Twitter to contradict statements by officials in his administration, including the Secretary of Commerce, that they would produce the 2020 census without a question about citizenship.

"FAKE! We are absolutely moving forward," wrote President Trump on Wednesday, adding to that sentiment with another tweet on Thursday.

"Department of Commerce and Department of Justice are working very hard on this, even on the 4th of July!" wrote Mr. Trump.

The president's comments created confusion even for a federal judge responsible for deciding whether the issue can move forward.

On Wednesday afternoon, that judge arranged a conference call and pressed government lawyers about why the President's statements seemed to contradict their position that the citizenship question would not be included in the 2020 census.

RELATED: Supreme Court allows partisan districts, blocks census query

"If you were Facebook and an attorney for Facebook told me one thing, and then I read a press release from Mark Zuckerberg telling me something else, I would be demanding that Mark Zuckerberg appear in court with you the next time because I would be saying I don't think you speak for your client anymore," said Judge George Jarrod Hazel.

The judge gave the Department of Justice until Friday afternoon to decide if it would continue the fight to include a citizenship question, but some say the ongoing fight itself could have an impact on the outcome of the census whether there's a question about citizenship or not.

"Even the discussion of this issue may produce a chilling effect for undocumented individuals in the country who now fear that their absence of citizenship will encourage them to not complete a census form," Schier said.

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Eric Rasmussen

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