Trump says 'sad time' after controversial census change abandoned
Donald Trump (Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

President Donald Trump said Tuesday it was a "very sad time" after the US government gave up a controversial attempt to put a question about citizenship on next year's census.

The decision, announced earlier in the day, handed a victory to those who argued the new item would lead to discrimination against minority residents.

It followed a Supreme Court ruling that the case for adding the citizenship question was not convincing.

The president wrote on Twitter: "A very sad time for America when the Supreme Court of the United States won't allow a question of 'Is this person a Citizen of the United States?' to be asked on the #2020 Census!"

Trump added he had asked the departments of commerce and justice to "do whatever is necessary to bring this most vital of questions, and this very important case, to a successful conclusion."

Trump's initial reaction to the ruling had been to call for a delay in the imminent printing of the 2020 census forms, holding up the census in order to allow time for a new appeal.

That bid has now been dropped, ending any chance of changing the format of the massive, once-every-decade survey.

"We're glad the #2020Census will begin printing without a citizenship question," said New York State Attorney General Letitia James, who led a group of states challenging the administration on the issue.

Just this Monday, Trump had been defiant, telling reporters he wanted the census to find out who was a citizen "as opposed to an illegal."

"It is a big difference to me between being a citizen of the United States and being an illegal," he said.

Opponents argued that the question -- which has not been included since 1950 -- would drive many immigrants to avoid answering out of fear of being caught up in Trump's crackdown on illegal immigration.

This would render them invisible, skewing the population count and resulting in fewer government resources for the areas they live in, while distorting the lines of congressional districts, which are based on numbers of residents.

This was the intention all along, said Joe Biden, the frontrunner in the contest to become the Democratic opponent to Trump in 2020 presidential election.

"Make no mistake, the Trump Administration added a citizenship question to the Census to deliberately cut out the voices of immigrants and communities of color. It's wrong and goes against our core values as a nation," the former vice president tweeted.

The Census Bureau's experts said that 1.6 to 6.5 million immigrants, notably Hispanics, would avoid the census or lie to census takers if faced with the citizenship question.