Supreme Court to review Trump plan for excluding undocumented immigrants from census

By: - October 19, 2020 4:58 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.

The Supreme Court on Oct. 13 allowed the U.S. Census Bureau to stop counting people across the country two weeks earlier than a lower court’s order had originally required, raising fears that many people — including racial and ethnic minorities, who have historically been undercounted — would not be included in the census data.

Now, the Supreme Court is preparing to review another case involving President Donald Trump’s plan to exclude undocumented immigrants from the 2020 Census count when determining how to allocate representatives in Congress.

The court on Nov. 30 will hear arguments for and against a September decision, reached by a panel of judges in New York, that found the plan violated federal law governing the one-in-a-decade count of the “whole number of persons” living in the United States.

In July, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser announced that Colorado had joined New York in that lawsuit, along with 18 other states, the District and Columbia and several cities and counties.

Their complaint noted that for 150 years “since the United States recognized the whole personhood of those formerly bound in slavery,” every other administration has counted “all persons” for apportionment purposes, “regardless of immigration status.”

The New York panel of judges ultimately sided with the plaintiffs. However, the Trump administration’s request for the Supreme Court to review the case was granted Oct. 16, and the high court could overturn that ruling — potentially after Trump has left office, should he lose the election.

In a July 21 memo, Trump argued that as president he has executive discretion over who gets counted in the census.

“The discretion delegated to the executive branch to determine who qualifies as an ‘inhabitant’ includes authority to exclude from the apportionment base aliens who are not in a lawful immigration status,” Trump wrote in the memo, which directed the secretary of commerce to exclude undocumented immigrants from the 2020 census, for purposes of apportionment.

As examples of others who’d been excluded from past censuses, Trump pointed to those visiting for business or tourism, foreign diplomats and overseas federal employees.

Colorado had about 190,000 undocumented immigrants in 2016, according to estimates from the Pew Research Center, accounting for 3.4% of the state’s population.

A July 24 Pew analysis predicted that Trump’s directive could mean California would lose two congressional seats instead of one, Florida would gain one instead of two, and Texas would gain two instead of three.

Weiser told Newsline in July that he believes Colorado may lose its chance to gain a congressional seat next year, should undocumented people be excluded from the count.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Faith Miller
Faith Miller

Faith Miller was a reporter with Colorado Newsline covering the Colorado Legislature, immigration and other stories.