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census citizenship question
November 19, 2018

The Trump administration's decision to add a question of citizenship to the 2020 census may have had some political motivations after all.

Census surveys are confidential, but several lawsuits still alleged including a question about citizenship would discourage undocumented immigrants from taking the census. Now, documents filed in a California suit Friday show the census' inherent confidentiality may have been in danger, The Washington Post reports.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced in March that the 2020 census would explicitly ask if people were U.S. citizens. Lawsuits across the country quickly challenged the constitutionality of the proposal, and critics said undocumented peoples' fear of taking the survey would lead to undercounts. Questions also arose over the motivation behind adding the question, with some worrying President Trump's hostility toward non-citizens would leave the census results vulnerable to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

As activists and attorneys prodded Trump officials over whether the question results would remain within the Commerce Department, as mandated under the Census Act, at least one official was told to stay silent, per the Post. Friday's court filings show a June 12 email to acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore, in which a Department of Justice attorney told him not to "say too much" about the confidentiality issue because it might "come up later for renewed debate."

The first of several trials challenging the question is currently underway in New York. A hearing over what evidence can be used in these trials, and whether Trump officials' motivations in enacting the question can be considered, is slated for the Supreme Court in February. Kathryn Krawczyk

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