Trump effort to alter the census on counting undocumented immigrants provokes outrage

The U.S. Supreme Court blocked President Trump’s effort to include a citizenship question in the 2020 census questionnaire, but now he’s trying another way to get to the same end that he always had in mind.

Trump signed a memo today that purports to bar undocumented immigrants from being counted for purposes of congressional apportionment.

This is from the Washington Post:

“President Trump signed a memorandum Tuesday in support of barring undocumented immigrants from being counted for congressional apportionment next year.

Doing so, he said, would represent a ‘better understanding of the Constitution’ than the way apportionment has been implemented for over two centuries.

‘For the purpose of the reapportionment of Representatives following the 2020 census, it is the policy of the United States to exclude from the apportionment base aliens who are not in a lawful immigration status .?.?. to the maximum extent feasible and consistent with the discretion delegated to the executive branch,’ the memo said.”

The memo has provoked outrage from civil rights and good government organizations — some of whom have promised to sue over the matter.

Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause issued a statement in which she put it this way:

“The U.S. Constitution enshrines a uniquely American invention: to conduct a Census each ten years to count every person living in the United States of America in order to determine representation in the Congress. Today, counting every person also ensured that $1.5 trillion in federal funding for critical resources like food assistance, medical supplies for COVID-19 recovery, youth programs, and affordable housing is also fairly distributed. Today, President Trump has issued a Memorandum on Excluding Illegal Aliens From the Apportionment Base Following the 2020 Census that is fundamentally unconstitutional.

This memorandum by President Trump is a blatant attempt to skew how electoral districts are drawn, instill fear and chaos in immigrant communities, and send a message to his white supremacist base. Based on records uncovered by Common Cause v. Lewis litigation, the memorandum is part of an ongoing partisan effort led by the Trump Administration to whitewash political representation, by removing and silencing the fastest growing populations of color – Latinx and Asian Americans and other immigrant populations.

By law, the census counts everyone regardless of citizenship status. A presidential memorandum cannot rewrite the Constitution. Under Section 2 of the Fourteenth Amendment, ‘representatives shall be apportioned among the several states according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each state, excluding Indians not taxed.’ ‘Persons’ means “persons,” and that means everyone. There are no exceptions for immigration status.”

Meanwhile Kristen Clarke of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, put it this way:

“After losing the battle to include a citizenship question on the 2020 Census, the Trump administration seeks to resurrect this fight through a memorandum that runs contrary to the Constitution, Supreme Court precedent and historical practice. Once again, the Trump administration is taking actions intended to sow chaos and disrupt efforts to secure a full count of communities of color in the 2020 Census. The constitutional mandate to count the whole number of persons in each state has a long and settled tradition of including all persons, regardless of their citizenship or immigration status. Everyone in the United States relies on a full count of all persons for full political representation and for the fair allocation of millions of dollars in federal funding for public health, education, transportation and neighborhood improvements.”

This is obviously a developing story. Stay tuned for further updates.

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