When it comes to improving communities, every person counts.
WASHINGTON – A trio of federal judges in New York on Thursday ruled that President Donald Trump’s order to exclude undocumented immigrants from the census count was unlawful.
Trump’s July memorandum claimed that undocumented migrants should not be counted in the census for purposes of deciding how many members of Congress are allocated to each state.
The court ruled his order violates the federal laws that establish how congressional seats are apportioned. Apportionment is the process of deciding how many members in the House of Representatives each state will receive based on that state’s population.
The judges granted an injunction stopping the order, saying the harm caused by it would last for a decade.
“We declare the Presidential Memorandum to be an unlawful exercise of the authority granted to the President by statute,” the three-judge panel ruled unanimously.
Trump’s July order did not change who would be counted in the 2020 census, which counts every person, but rather directed Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, whose agency oversees the U.S. Census Bureau, to provide the president with a count of the entire population, and a second that excluded “aliens who are not in a lawful immigration status.”
The judges prohibited Ross from excluding people who are in the country illegally when handing in 2020 census figures used to calculate the number of congressional seats.
The court said that those in the country illegally qualify as people to be counted in the states they reside, writing, “Throughout the Nation’s history, the figures used to determine the apportionment of Congress — in the language of the current statutes, the ‘total population’ and the ‘whole number of persons’ in each State — have included every person residing in the United States at the time of the census, whether citizen or non-citizen and whether living here with legal status or without.”
Trump’s memorandum was challenged by dozens of states, cities, counties, and groups representing minority communities. The American Civil Liberties Union had argued that the change could cause some states to lose congressional seats if undocumented immigrants weren’t included.
“This is a huge victory for voting rights and for immigrants‘ rights,” Director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project Dale Ho said in a statement. “President Trump has tried and failed yet again to weaponize the census against immigrant communities. The law is clear — every person counts in the census.”
Thursday’s decision is another major court defeat for the White House, with the July order inspired by Trump’s failed attempt last year to add a citizenship question to the census.
In June 2019, the Supreme Court ruled against the citizenship question, saying the Trump administration’s reasons for wanting to include it in the census appeared to “have been contrived.”
The three-judge panel declined to say whether the latest order violated the Constitution.
In addition to this legal fight, the Trump administration is facing lawsuits over a directive to shorten the 2020 census schedule, which was already disrupted by COVID-19.
The deadline was moved up to Sept. 30 because, according to the census, that was the only way numbers could be tabulated in time to meet “our statutory deadline of Dec. 31, 2020, as required by law and directed by the Secretary of Commerce.”
Over the Labor Day weekend, a federal judge in California blocked the Trump administration from immediately winding down census operations, and will be hearing a challenge to the administration ending census counting a month early.
Contributing: David Jackson, Marco della Cava, USA TODAY; The Associated Press
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