Trump sued by watchdog over attempt to omit unauthorised migrants from census count

‘The Constitution is unambiguous in its requirements relating to the census count and reapportionment of Congressional seats — all persons must be counted,’ says Common Cause president Karen Hobert Flynn

James Crump
Friday 24 July 2020 23:05 BST
Donald Trump gives speech on citizenship and the census

President Donald Trump is being sued by a government watchdog group and two US cities for his decision to exclude unauthorised immigrants from an upcoming census count.

Watchdog group Common Cause filed the federal lawsuit in the US District Court for the District of Columbia on Thursday and are asking for donations from the public to support the case.

The president signed a memorandum on Tuesday that would prevent migrants who travelled to the US illegally to be counted in the next census, that will help Congress decide how many seats each Congressional District is assigned.

The US constitution requires that the “whole number of persons in each state” is counted every decade in order to decide the level of representation in Congress for each state, according to NPR.

The president’s memo that announced the decision did not mention excluding those in the US illegally from the final count of the 2020 census, but an email sent out from the Trump campaign team confirmed the plan.

The email read that the “executive order” was signed to “put America FIRST by blocking illegal aliens from receiving congressional representation and being counted in the US census,” NPR reported.

Common Cause, along with two cities, an advocacy group and several US citizens, are asking a federal judge to declare the memo in violation of the Constitution and federal laws.

They have asked for the Trump administration and the House clerk to be barred from executing any census count that does not include people “on the basis of their citizenship or immigration status.”

Included among the plaintiffs are the cities of Atlanta, Georgia and Paterson, New Jersey, and refugee advocacy organisation Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans.

Several US citizens from Florida and New York are also suing the administration, as they claim that the executive order will damage their representation in Congress, because the areas have an “above-average number of undocumented immigrants.”

In a statement, Common Cause president Karen Hobert Flynn wrote that “the Constitution is unambiguous in its requirements relating to the census count and reapportionment of Congressional seats — all persons must be counted.”

She added: “This directive simply ignores those requirements in an unconstitutional attempt to manipulate the process for racial advantage and partisan political gain.”

The plaintiffs claim that Mr Trump’s executive order is “part of an unconstitutional concerted effort to shift political power away from racial and ethnic minorities, chiefly Latinos,” following his attempt to add a citizenship question to the census last year that was blocked by the Supreme Court.

At the time, senators Jerry Moran and Jeanne Shaheen, the chairman and vice chairwoman of a Senate spending committee that doles out census funding, wrote to census director Stephen Dillingham to reiterate the need for everyone in the US to be included.

They wrote: “It is imperative for the census to count every person in the United States, where they live, and this includes communities that for various reasons have historically had low participation in decennial censuses.”

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