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President Donald Trump’s plan to exclude illegal immigrants from the U.S. Census has prompted lawsuits and may mean a loss of seats in the House of Representatives for some states.
California, Florida and Texas could end up with one less U.S. representative changes to apportionment occur from not including those in the country illegally in the population totals from the census, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center.
Though both citizen and noncitizen counts have been used to apportion seats in the House since the first census in 1790, Trump is seeking to remove the immigrants who are undocumented and illegally in the country from being counted.
“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,” the president said last week in a memorandum.
“Respect for the law and protection of the integrity of the democratic process warrant the exclusion of illegal aliens from the apportionment base, to the extent feasible and to the maximum extent of the President’s discretion under the law,” Trump said in the document.
It was not yet clear how the census takers would determine the citizenship status of those responding as the Supreme Court last year blocked Trump’s effort to add the question to the census. If his attempt to exclude the illegal immigrants from being counted moves forward, California will end up losing two seats in the House rather than one as was previously expected.
Florida would end up gaining only one seat rather than two and Texas would gain two instead of three, according to the study. But the split of the 435 House seats in the apportionment process will mean three other states, Alabama, Minnesota and Ohio, will end up keeping a seat they each had been set to lose.
According to Pew Research:
In addition to these states, 11 more would gain or lose seats based on population change alone, whether unauthorized immigrants are included or excluded. Five states would gain one seat each: Arizona, Colorado, Montana, North Carolina and Oregon. Six states would lose one seat each: Illinois, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and West Virginia.
Not surprisingly, Democrats have raised the alarm and several lawsuits have been filed already challenging Trump’s directive.
The government watchdog group Common Cause led with the first federal lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia last week, claiming the efforts are “part of an unconstitutional concerted effort to shift political power away from racial and ethnic minorities, chiefly Latinos.”
The next day, a coalition of 20 states as well as other localities led by New York state filed a complaint in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York claiming the administration made an “arbitrary and capricious” decision to exclude illegal immigrants from the census count.
The American Civil Liberties Union and New York Civil Liberties Union are representing immigrant rights groups who filed another lawsuit claiming the memo from the president has not undergone proper procedure.
“Government action denying the personhood of people living in the United States echoes the darkest chapters of American constitutional history,” the complaint read.
But Trump’s memo clearly stated the principles driving the order to not count part of the population.
“Excluding these illegal aliens from the apportionment base is more consonant with the principles of representative democracy underpinning our system of Government,” the document read.
“Affording congressional representation, and therefore formal political influence, to States on account of the presence within their borders of aliens who have not followed the steps to secure a lawful immigration status under our laws undermines those principles,” the president’s memo continued.
“Many of these aliens entered the country illegally in the first place,” he continued. “Increasing congressional representation based on the presence of aliens who are not in a lawful immigration status would also create perverse incentives encouraging violations of Federal law.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham and others are scheduled to testify at a House Oversight Committee hearing on Wednesday as the issue is further reviewed.
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