The trump administration has told the us census bureau to finish its highly politicised once-in-a-decade count by next week, in apparent defiance of a court order issued just days earlier.

The bureau said on monday night that wilbur ross, the commerce secretary, had set a target date of october 5 for the conclusion of field operations for the exercise. the announcement was made despite an injunction issued by a federal judge last week that required counting to continue until the end of october.

President donald trump has been pushing the bureau to finish as quickly as possible in what critics fear is an attempt to skew the results.

The us census helps to decide where $1.5tn worth of federal and state funding should be spent, as well as apportioning districts in the house of representatives.

But civil rights groups have warned that rushing the fieldwork risked undercounting minority groups, which are typically both harder to reach and less likely to vote for mr trump and his republican party.

The bureaus announcement was made during a hearing to decide whether the trump administration acted unlawfully when it set a deadline of the end of september to conclude the census fieldwork, a month earlier than planned.

According to bloomberg, lucy koh, the judge hearing the case, said she was disturbed by the announcement, which appeared to break the preliminary injunction she issued last week barring the administration from finishing census operations before october 31.

She ordered government lawyers to produce a written record the following day detailing how mr ross made his decision.

The census bureau did not comment further than the announcement.

Ms koh is hearing arguments in a lawsuit brought by a coalition of groups led by the national urban league, which said the trump administrations plans to end the census count a month earlier than planned was arbitrary and capricious.

Campaign groups warn that completing operations early probably mean minority communities were undercounted, especially given that the coronavirus pandemic had made it harder to reach people.

Last week ms koh issued a preliminary injunction after ruling that the lawsuit would probably succeed.

She told the court on monday that the bureaus announcement would force her to conclude her proceedings more quickly. clearly, i need to bring this to a head sooner than i thought, she said, according to bloomberg.

The lawsuit is the latest in a series of legal cases brought by groups that accuse mr trump of attempting a variety of illegal methods to suppress the votes of people who are less likely to vote for him and the republicans.

In 2017 the president failed in a bid to have a question on citizenship added to the census forms, which opponents said would have made immigrantsmore reluctant to complete it. this year judges also blocked an attempt to remove undocumented immigrants from the count.