President Donald Trump was handed a victory of sorts on the U.S. Census by the Supreme Court which tossed out a challenge to his effort to exclude illegal immigrants from being counted.
Tax dollars and congressional seats can now be allocated by the administration based on the official U.S. population count in the 2020 census, without including individuals who are in the country illegally. The 6-3 unsigned opinion by the Supreme Court on Friday was technically a procedural win for the president as the case was kicked back to a three-judge district court “with instructions to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction.”
The high court threw out the ruling from the lower court on procedural grounds, but acknowledged that the case could, in the future, be “suitable for adjudication.”
“This past July, the President issued a memorandum to the Secretary respecting the apportionment following the 2020 census. The memorandum announced a policy of excluding ‘from the apportionment base aliens who are not in a lawful immigration status,'” the majority opinion wrote in Friday’s ruling.
“This case arises from one of several challenges to the memorandum brought by various States, local governments, organizations, and individuals. A three-judge District Court held that the plaintiffs, appellees here, had standing to proceed in federal court because the memorandum was chilling aliens and their families from responding to the census, thereby degrading the quality of census data used to allocate federal funds and forcing some plaintiffs to divert resources to combat the chilling effect,” the opinion continued.
“As the plaintiffs concede, any chilling effect from the memorandum dissipated upon the conclusion of the census response period,” the justices explained.
“As the case comes to us, however, we conclude that it does not—at this time—present a dispute ‘appropriately resolved through the judicial process,’” the opinion continued, explaining why they were not weighing in on the merits of the claims.
“At the end of the day, the standing and ripeness inquiries both lead to the conclusion that judicial resolution of this dispute is premature. Consistent with our determination that standing has not been shown and that the case is not ripe, we express no view on the merits of the constitutional and related statutory claims presented,” they wrote.
“We hold only that they are not suitable for adjudication at this time. The judgment of the District Court is vacated, and the case is remanded with instructions to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction,” the justices concluded.
Liberal Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan did not agree and, in a dissenting opinion, wrote that the majority ignored a “threatened injury” that was “unusually straightforward.”
Not counting the large number of illegal immigrants, many of whom live in states that tend to lean Democratic, could have major impacts on the number of seats in the House of Representatives.
After the president announced the policy to exclude the undocumented segment in the country in July, a legal challenge led to a federal district court ruling in September that Trump’s plan was unlawful.
The president has a short time left to give Congress a report on the number of House seats each state will be allocated. The 2020 Census report is due to be delivered to the president by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross by Dec. 31.
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