Legal and civil rights organizations condemn Trump for blocking ‘undocumented immigrants from fair representation’
United States President Donald Trump on Tuesday, July 21 signed a memorandum that would exclude undocumented immigrants from census counts in what is the administration’s latest attempt to alter the way that populations are tallied and progress its stringent immigration plan.
“I have accordingly determined that respect for the law and protection of the integrity of the democratic process warrant the exclusion of [undocumented immigrants] from the apportionment base, to the extent feasible and to the maximum extent of the President’s discretion under the law,” the order read.
The timing of Trump’s memo is crucial. Congressional district lines will be redrawn in 2021 and what hangs in the balance is whether or not undocumented immigrants would be included in population counts in those districts.
Also, the president’s memo arrives as the 2020 U.S. Census — which began in January — is still underway with about 62.2% nationwide participation so far, according to the Census Bureau’s website.
Much like his proposal to include a citizenship question on the census survey, the memorandum, if enforced, would shift the balance of power in the House of Representatives which is dictated by states’ population count.
The first census in the U.S. was administered in 1790, and since then, U.S. citizens and noncitizens have always been included in the country’s official population surveys.
The Constitution specifies that all “persons” residing in the country should be included in the decennial count to determine the number of representatives states get in the House.
(The 14th Amendment went on to specify that the “whole number of persons in each state” should be counted, doing away with the classification of slaves as “three-fifths” of a free person.)
Like Trump’s past efforts to manifest his immigration agenda, the president’s memo will likely be challenged in court. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has continued to challenge Trump’s immigration proposals, and in response to Tuesday’s memorandum, the ACLU once again pledged to take legal action.
And like the federal court’s decision on the citizenship question, the courts will determine that Tuesday’s directive will be found unconstitutional, hopes Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project.
“[Trump’s] latest attempt to weaponize the census for an attack on immigrant communities will be found unconstitutional. We’ll see him in court, and win, again,” Ho said.
Along with the ACLU, other groups that have previously taken legal action against the Trump administration signaled that they are once again preparing to file a suit against Tuesday’s memorandum.
Mirroring the ACLU’s sentiments, the civil rights and legal organization Asian Americans Advancing Justice condemned the president’s memo, saying that it is an attempt by the administration to sabotage “each of our communities to be under-resourced and underrepresented for the next decade.”
“We will not be moved by the president’s attempts to silence people in our country,” Advancing Justice said in a statement. “This is the latest in a series of attempts to politicize the census and use it as a weapon in his anti-immigrant agenda. It is a move straight out of the white supremacists’ playbook that has every discriminatory practice to restrict the rights of Black, Brown, Indigenous, and Asian American people.”
Advancing Justice also reminded those who haven’t taken the census survey — which comprises nine simple questions about those living in each household — to fill out and submit their form, which can be done online.
“Even in the face of racism, we will not be silenced. To individuals in our communities, do not be deterred. Everyone should be counted in the census,” they said. “Asian Americans Advancing Justice will continue to push for a fair and accurate count of all individuals in this country. We vow to fight this unconstitutional attack.”