A new team of Civil Division lawyers at the Department of Justice will take over handling 2020 census-related cases, a spokeswoman for the agency said on Sunday, a shake-up that came as President Donald Trump pushes to include a contentious citizenship question in the decennial population survey.
Spokeswoman Kerri Kupec did not give a reason for the change, but an official at the agency said the new team would be a mix of career and political appointees, including lawyers who work in the consumer protection branch.
The department has been looking at ways to add the question after Trump said he wanted it included, despite the Supreme Court blocking his first effort to add the question on June 27, faulting the administration’s stated reason.
Trump said he was considering issuing an executive order to accomplish his aim. On Friday, the department told Maryland-based U.S. District Judge George Hazel it had not made a final determination on whether to add the question.
The census is used to allot seats in the House and distribute some $800 billion in federal services, including public schools, Medicaid benefits, law enforcement and highway repairs.
Civil rights groups and some states strongly object to the citizenship question proposal, calling it a Republican ploy to scare immigrants into not participating in the census. That would lead to a population undercount in Democratic-leaning areas with high immigrant populations.
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.