The Trump administration has begun printing the 2020 census without including a question about citizenship status, seemingly bringing an end to a contentious legal battle that reached the highest court in the land.
In an email obtained by CBS News to attorneys who have been leading the court fight, a lawyer from the Justice Department wrote that "the decision has been made" to print the census without the question and that printing had already begun. The Justice Department confirmed the move later Tuesday afternoon, as did the Commerce Department.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross also said the Census Bureau's focus is assuring a "complete and accurate census."
"I respect the Supreme Court but strongly disagree with its ruling regarding my decision to reinstate a citizenship question on the 2020 census," Ross said in a statement. "The Census Bureau has started the process of printing the decennial questionnaires without the question. My focus, and that of the bureau and the entire department is to conduct a complete and accurate census."
Last week, the Supreme Courtthe administration couldn't add the proposed citizenship question because its explanation for doing so was insufficient. Opponents of the question had argued its inclusion would lead to the undercounting of certain demographic groups.
The administration had an opportunity to go back to the drawing board to revise its handling of the situation, but it would have been racing against the clock to do so before the forms needed to be printed.
President Trump, a move that would have immediately run into additional legal obstacles. The Constitution stipulates that the census be taken every 10 years.
"Seems totally ridiculous that our government, and indeed Country, cannot ask a basic question of Citizenship in a very expensive, detailed and important Census, in this case for 2020," Mr. Trump tweeted after last week's ruling.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said he was "encouraged" over the administration's decision. Cummings is still waiting for documents from the Trump administration over its plans to add the controversial question.
"I am encouraged that administration officials dropped President Trump's unconstitutional plan to postpone the census just because he lost the Supreme Court case," Cummings wrote. "The Trump administration put our country through more than a year of wasted time and squandered resources—all in the service of an illegal attempt to add a discriminatory question based on a pretext. Now they need to direct all their attention to the nuts and bolts of putting on the census next year. The Census Bureau has a responsibility under the Constitution to get an accurate count."
"The Attorney General and the Secretary of Commerce must now turn over all of the documents our Committee has subpoenaed on a bipartisan basis," Cummings added.
The White House has not publicly commented on the matter yet.
Camilo Montoya-Galvez contributed to this report.
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