The Lead

Trump administration excludes undocumented immigrants from census reapportionment process

By: - July 21, 2020 4:53 pm

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In a memorandum Tuesday, President Donald Trump directed the U.S. Department of Commerce and Secretary Wilbur Ross no to count undocumented immigrants in its 2020 Census reapportionment efforts. 

The document cites sections of the U.S. Constitution as a defense for the president’s ruling. 

“The Constitution does not specifically define which persons must be included in the apportionment base. Although the Constitution requires the ‘persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed,’ to be enumerated in the census, that requirement has never been understood to include in the apportionment base every individual physically present within a State’s boundaries at the time of the census. Instead, the term ‘persons in each State’ has been interpreted to mean that only the “inhabitants” of each State should be included. Determining which persons should be considered ‘inhabitants’ for the purpose of apportionment requires the exercise of judgment. For example, aliens who are only temporarily in the United States, such as for business or tourism, and certain foreign diplomatic personnel are ‘persons’ who have been excluded from the apportionment base in past censuses.”

Additionally, the administration argued that Supreme Court precedent would agree with their determination.

“As the Supreme Court recognized in Franklin v. Massachusetts, inclusion in the apportionment base may require “more than mere physical presence,” including ‘some element of allegiance or enduring tie to a place,’” a White House statement read. 

The administration added that failing to exclude undocumented immigrants could have “major ramifcations and could cause some American citizens to be proportionally underrepresented.”

The memo did not specify what those ramifications might be, nor did it offer an example of what citizens might be underrepresented should undocumented immigrants be counted. 

The decennial head count of every person living in the country is used to determine the number of representatives in each state, dish out federal funding to communities and collect demographic data on Americans. 

Here’s what’s at stake for Pa. in the 2020 Census: School funding, road repairs and more

The White House’s statement also suggests that allowing undocumented immigrants to be counted could “create perverse incentives – such as potentially rewarding states that encourage violations of Federal immigration law – that would undermine our system of government.”

Trump said the exclusion of undocumented immigrants from the reapportionment process is part of his earlier efforts to determine the citizenship status of Americans.

“Last summer in the Rose Garden, I told the American people that I would not back down in my effort to determine the citizenship status of the United States population,” Trump said in a statement. “Today, I am following through on that commitment by directing the Secretary of Commerce to exclude illegal aliens from the apportionment base following the 2020 census.”

The White House’s statement said the action is to “ensure American citizens receive proper representation in Congress.”

Trump’s previous efforts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census were struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court last June. 

Then, Chief Justice John Roberts said the court “cannot ignore the disconnect between the decision made and the explanation given” by the administration.

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Cassie Miller
Cassie Miller

A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry.