California Sues Trump to Ensure Undocumented Immigrants are Counted in Congressional Apportionment

Courtesy photo by Tony Webster / (CC BY 2.0)

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra — joined by the cities of Long Beach, Los Angeles, and Oakland, as well as the Los Angeles Unified School District — filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against the Trump administration over attempts to keep undocumented immigrants from being counted when congressional districts are redrawn following the 2020 Census.

A White House memorandum signed July 21 by President Donald Trump seeks to bar undocumented persons from the apportionment base following this year’s census. Apportionment measures the population so that seats in the U.S. House of Representatives can be correctly apportioned among the states. Without that population of more than 2 million people, California could lose two seats in the House instead of one, according to analysis by the Pew Research Center.

“You can’t be a law-and-order president if you keep breaking the law,” said AG Becerra. “This latest attack on the census is just that — it’s unlawful. President Trump still believes he can sidestep the U.S. Constitution. A complete, accurate census count is critical to ensure we get the Congressional representation and resources we have a right to. For Californians who haven’t filled out the census, get to it. Make your voice heard.”

The administration argues that the president makes the final determination regarding the “whole number of persons in each State” and that the Constitution does not specifically define which persons must be included in the apportionment base.

In a press release issued Tuesday, Becerra argued that “Beyond the myriad legal flaws, the administration’s memorandum ignores that the framers of the U.S. Constitution required that each state’s representation in Congress reflect all persons regardless of their eligibility to vote, including children, women, and the ‘entire immigrant population not naturalized.’ For the purposes of apportionment, the U.S. Constitution requires an actual enumeration — a count of each person — of the country’s total population every 10 years, which U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross himself asserted in testimony before Congress in 2019. By attempting to circumvent these long-standing constitutional requirements, the Trump Administration is once again taking egregious steps to undermine the rule of law.”

In addition to helping determine state representation, census results are also used to distribute federal funding. Billions of dollars that California receives annually to fund programs and services are at stake.

Governor Gavin Newsom issued a statement condemning the administration’s efforts.

“Counting every person in our country through the Census is a principle so foundational that it is written into our Constitution. This latest action by the administration to exclude undocumented immigrants when determining representation in Congress, rooted in racism and xenophobia, is a blatant attack on our institutions and our neighbors.

“In California, we will not back down from our historic work to achieve a fair and accurate Census count. To all Californians, including members of our immigrant communities, know that this is your home, and it is your right to be counted here.”

Last year, Attorney General Becerra, alongside a multistate coalition, helped secure a U.S. Supreme Court ruling to block the administration’s attempt to add a citizenship question to the U.S. Census.

July 30, 2020

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Fabiola Diaz

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