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Trump plans new move to force citizenship question on census

Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar and administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Seema Verma look on as President Donald Trump speaks during an event on kidney health at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, Wednesday, July 10, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is expected to announce new executive action Thursday to try to force the inclusion of a citizenship question on the 2020 census, even after the Supreme Court temporarily blocked the effort.

Trump tweeted Thursday morning that he would be holding a news conference on the subject following a White House "Social Media Summit." A senior administrator official, speaking on condition of anonymity to preview the plans, said the president would be announcing new action, but did not elaborate on exactly what Trump planned to sign.

Any such action would likely draw immediate legal challenge, and officials were still scrambling to finalize language in the hours after Trump's tweet.

Trump said last week that he was "very seriously" considering an executive order to try to force the citizenship question's inclusion, despite the fact that the government has already begun the lengthy and expensive process of printing the census questionnaire without it.

An executive order, by itself, would not override court rulings blocking the question, though it could give administration lawyers a new basis on which to try to convince federal courts the question passes muster.

Critics and experts worry that including a citizenship question for the first time since 1950 will discourage those living in the country illegally from participating. Keeping the prospect of adding the question alive could also scare some off from participating, while showing Trump's base that he is fighting for the issue, even if it never happens.

Trump's 2016 campaign was animated by his pledge to crack down on illegal immigration, and he has tied the citizenship question to that issue, insisting the U.S. must know who is living here.

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said in an interview on Fox News Channel's "Fox and Friends" Thursday morning that he was expecting Trump to move forward with the order, and said he thought it was "a good move."

Trump's administration has faced numerous roadblocks to adding the question, including the ruling by the Supreme Court temporarily barring its inclusion on the grounds that the government's justification was insufficient. A federal judge on Wednesday also rejected the Justice Department's plan to switch up the legal team fighting the question, a day after another federal judge in Manhattan issued a similar ruling, saying the government can't replace nine lawyers so late in the dispute without satisfactorily explaining why it's doing so.

Refusing concession, Trump has insisted his administration push forward, suggesting last week that officials might be able to add an addendum to the questionnaire with the question after it's already printed. He has also toyed with the idea of halting the constitutionally mandated survey while the legal fight ensues.

Trump has offered several explanations for why he believes the question is necessary to include in the once-in-a-decade population count that determines the allocation of seats in the House of Representatives for the next 10 years and the distribution of some $675 billion in federal spending.

"You need it for Congress, for districting. You need it for appropriations. Where are the funds going? How many people are there? Are they citizens? Are they not citizens? You need it for many reasons," he told reporters last week, despite the fact that Congressional Districts are based on total population, regardless of residents' national origin or immigration status.

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If immigrants are undercounted, Democrats fear that would pull money and political power away from Democratic-led cities where immigrants tend to cluster, and shift it to whiter, rural areas where Republicans do well.

Thomas Homan, the former acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and a Trump ally, has argued in recent interviews that Democrats oppose the question because, if more people living in the country illegally are counted in the census, more seats will be allocated to Democratic states, resulting in more Electoral College votes.

"This is power. This is about elections. This is about electoral votes," he recently told Fox Business network

Alarmed by last week's change of course by the administration, the plaintiffs in the New York census citizenship case already have asked U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman to permanently block the administration from adding the question to the 2020 census. Furman has set a July 23 hearing on the request.

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Associated Press writers Mark Sherman and Zeke Miller contributed to this report.

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