President Donald Trump announced on Monday that he is looking “very strongly” at delaying the 2020 census if the administration is not allowed to ask a question about the respondent’s citizenship status.

“We’re looking at that,” Trump told reporters at the White House when asked about a delay. “So you can ask other things, but you can’t ask whether or not somebody is a citizen? So we are trying to do that. We’re looking at that very strongly.”

The president claimed that it was necessary to ask the question because “it’s very important to find out if somebody’s a citizen as opposed to an illegal.” He also claimed that illegal immigrants are “treated better than the coal miner” with black lung, another attempt to solidify his voter base by attacking immigrants in favor of those living in rural areas.

The president first introduced the idea of a delay last week after the Supreme Court ruled that his government could not ask about citizenship on the census. The judges decided that the reasoning offered by the commerce department, that the question would help enforce the Voting Rights Act, was inadequate and “contrived.” The court sent the case back down to a lower court, blocking the addition of the question until the White House can provide a sufficient reason for the query’s inclusion.

The court’s ruling may put an end to the citizenship question as the deadline for printing the census is quickly approaching. The technical deadline for printing was July 1, but commerce department officials have said that in extenuating circumstances the hard deadline could be pushed until October. If the president is unsuccessful in delaying the census he will have three months to come up with an adequate reason for asking about citizenship and navigate through the judicial system in order to receive approval from the Supreme Court.


Legal scholars are outraged at the president’s idea of pushing back the census, as many believe it would violate the constitution. The country’s seminal document states that the nationwide census must occur every ten years, so it would be unconstitutional to delay it past 2020. Current federal laws state that the headcount must begin on April 1, so it remains to be seen whether the president can push through a measure that would allow the census to be moved back in time to add his citizenship question.

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