The Department of Justice told Maryland-based U.S. District Judge George Hazel it has not made a final determination on whether to add the question even as President Donald Trump told reporters he was considering issuing an executive order to do it.
Hazel, who had asked for a final decision from the government by Friday afternoon on whether it intended to press forward, issued an order saying the case will now move ahead.
In New York, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and its partners asked a federal judge to block the administration from adding a citizenship question to the census.
The group said the administration had successfully received an expedited hearing by arguing the census questionnaire had to be finalised by June 30. Given the abandonment of that deadline, they urged the judge to use his authority to “prohibit defendants from concocting a new basis to add a citizenship question” and to stop the government’s “shenanigans.”
They say that officials lied about their motivations for adding the question and that the move would help Trump’s fellow Republicans gain seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and state legislatures when new electoral district boundaries are drawn.
The Supreme Court on June 27 blocked Trump’s first effort to add the question, faulting the administration’s stated reason. The legal fight seemed to be over earlier in the week when the government said it would start printing census forms without the citizenship question. But the battle reignited on Wednesday when Trump reversed course via tweet.
“We’re working on a lot of things including an executive order,” Trump told reporters on Friday outside the White House as he left for his resort in Bedminster, New Jersey.
The U.S. Constitution specifically assigns the job of overseeing the census to Congress, limiting the authority of the president over it, which could complicate an effort to add the question via presidential missive.