US Circuit Court Judges Richard Wesley, Peter Hall and Jesse Furman handed down a Thursday ruling which prohibits the US president from making unprecedented alterations to the constitutionally-mandated count of every living person in the country.
A July presidential memorandum called on "executive departments and agencies to share information" with Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and his department, so that the administration could legally "obtain accurate data on the number of citizens, non-citizens, and illegal aliens in the country."
The proposed move has been met with legal skepticism, including by the panel of circuit court judges, who did not make a legal determination in regard to the constitutionality of Trump's efforts.
Court documents published on September 10 noted that "the 2020 census is not collecting information regarding citizenship status, let alone legal immigration status in this country, and the 2020 census will count illegal aliens according to where they reside."
The Thursday ruling followed US District Judge Lucy Koh's Saturday issuance of a temporary restraining order in a separate legal battle, which blocked Ross and the Trump administration from implementing proposed plans geared toward altering the 2020 census count and "winding down or altering any Census field operations."
Former heads of the nonpartisan principal agency argued in a joint August memo that an extension of census field operations was "necessary," as the beginning of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus pandemic delayed the Census Bureau's intended timeline.
"To accommodate this delay," the Census Bureau called for the new schedule to be shifted from May 15 through July 31, to August 11 through October 30, ex-US Census Bureau Directors Vincent Barabba, Kenneth Prewitt, Robert Groves, John Thompson explained.
Trump and the White House legal team are expected to appeal the three-judge panel's decision in the coming days.
Meanwhile, a preliminary injunction hearing on the census timeline case has been scheduled for September 17, the expiration date of the temporary restraining order.