A federal judge has ordered the Trump administration to clarify its intentions on the 2020 census after Donald Trump said on Wednesday he was still seeking to add a citizenship question to the once-a-decade survey.
Last week, the Supreme Court ruled against the administration and said it would have to come up with a more plausible explanation for adding a question about citizenship to the 2020 census.
The high court ruling left room for the Trump administration to try again, but it was unclear if there was sufficient time given the need to begin printing materials if the census is to go ahead next year on schedule.
Jesse Furman, a federal judge in New York overseeing one of two long-running census cases against the Trump administration over the question, ordered the government to explain its “positions and intentions” by 6pm on Wednesday.
In a parallel case in Maryland, the judge was due to hold a conference call with both sides at 3:30pm.
On Tuesday, Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary, said in a statement that the census bureau had “started the process of printing the decennial questionnaires without the question”.
Less than 24 hours later, Mr Trump tweeted that the Department of Commerce was not “dropping its quest” to add a citizenship question. “We are absolutely moving forward, as we must, because of the importance of the answer to this question,” he said.
Spokespeople for the commerce department, justice department and White House did not return requests for clarity on Mr Trump’s tweet on Wednesday.
The Trump administration has said it wants to add the question to help it better enforce a federal election law that prohibits discrimination, an explanation the Supreme Court found unconvincing.
Opponents of the move have argued that the move is designed to benefit Republicans by allowing them to draw election maps on the basis of citizenship rather than overall population.
A deceased Republican redistricting expert had pushed for the question as being “advantageous to Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites”.