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Trump 'determined' to add citizenship question to the census, immigration official says

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By Allan Smith  with NBC News Politics
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New citizens celebrate after taking the Oath of Allegiance during a naturalization ceremony on Jan. 18, 2019, at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services field office in Oakland Park, Florida.   -   Copyright  Wilfredo Lee AP file

A top U.S. immigration official said Sunday he's confident that the Trump administration will add the citizenship question to the 2020 census after their effort to do so was shot down by the Supreme Court.

"I do think so," Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of the Citizenship and Immigration Services office, told "Fox News Sunday." "I think the president has expressed determination. He's noted that the Supreme Court didn't say this can't be asked. They said they didn't appreciate the process by which it came forward the first time."

"The president is determined to fix that and to have it roll forward in the 2020 census," he continued.

On NBC's "Meet the Press," Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, said it was of paramount importance to move forward with the census without another effort at including the controversial citizenship question.

"I think we can't wait, we need to make sure we accurately count everybody," Hurd said. "An accurate count is important for cities, for counties. It's important for resources. ... We don't want there to be a miscount, for sure. Everybody needs to be counted."

"The Supreme Court has ruled," Hurd added. "Let's move forward, we shouldn't stall the census."

President Donald Trump made clear last week that he isn't abandoning efforts at having the question included in the 2020 census even after the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling, went against the administration's effort. On Friday, he said he was looking at issuing an executive order to add the question.

"We're thinking about doing that, we have four or five ways we can do it, it's one of the ways we're thinking about doing it very seriously," Trump said when asked about using an executive order to add the question.

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"We can start the printing (of the census forms) now and maybe do an addendum after we get a positive decision, so we're working on a lot of things, including an executive order," he added.

In that Supreme Court ruling, Chief Justice John Roberts joined the four liberal justices in saying the government has the right to ask a citizenship question but must properly justify doing so, which would changes the Census Bureau's longstanding practice. The court ruled late last month that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross did not provide an honest reason for why the question was necessary and barred the government from using that rationale as the basis for the question's inclusion.

The ruling left room for Ross to offer a new reason. But on Tuesday, Ross seemed to concede the effort, saying the Census Bureau "has started the process of printing the decennial questionnaires without the question."

Opponents have said the question is an effort to reduce the number of responses in immigrant communities.

Also on Friday, a federal judge ordered that a case on the citizenship question more forward. That case, U.S. District Court Judge George Hazel in Maryland said, will focus on if the Trump administration's effort was "steeped in discriminatory motive."