The U.S. Supreme Court halted a ruling requiring Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to testify about adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census.
This stay came after federal district and appeals court judges approved forcing Ross to answer questions under oath in a lawsuit challenging the decision.
Ross has argued that adding the question — which would ask respondents if they're U.S. citizens — would strengthen a provision in the Voting Rights Act that's supposed to prevent racial discrimination.
But the plaintiffs say the question would intimidate census participants and lead to an undercount of the noncitizen population. That could in turn affect how many representatives states are apportioned in Congress.
The Trump administration fought to block Ross' deposition, writing in papers to the Supreme Court that "compelling the testimony of a high-ranking government official – especially a member of the President's cabinet — is rarely if ever justified."
The Supreme Court ordered Monday that its decision regarding Ross' testimony will remain in effect as long as the government files a formal petition within a week. In the meantime, the justices ruled lawyers for the plaintiffs could still question a senior Justice Department official about the citizenship question at their trial, which begins Nov. 5.