ORLANDO, Fla. — President Trump is pushing to exclude immigrants who are in the country illegally from being counted in the redrawing of U.S. House districts. If he succeeds, California, Florida and Texas would end up with one less congressional seat each than if every resident were counted, according to an analysis by a think tank.
Without that population, California would lose two seats instead of one, Florida would gain one seat instead of two and Texas would gain two seats instead of three, according to the analysis by Pew Research Center.
Additionally, the Pew analysis shows Alabama, Minnesota and Ohio would each keep a congressional seat they most likely would have lost during the process of divvying up congressional seats by state known as apportionment, which takes place after the U.S. Census Bureau completes its once-a-decade head count of every U.S. resident. The bureau currently is in the middle of the 2020 census.
Federal law requires the Census Bureau to hand over the final head-count numbers used for apportionment to the president at the end of the year, but the bureau is asking Congress for an extension until next April 30 because of disruptions caused by the pandemic.
Besides being used to divvy up congressional seats, the 2020 census results will help determine how many votes in the Electoral College each state gets and the distribution of $1.5 trillion in federal funding.
Every resident of a state is traditionally counted during apportionment, but Trump last Tuesday issued a directive seeking to bar people in the U.S. illegally from being included in the headcount as congressional districts are redrawn. Trump said including them in the count “would create perverse incentives and undermine our system of government.”
At least four lawsuits or notices of a legal challenge have been filed seeking to halt the directive. Some opponents say it’s an effort to suppress the growing political power of Latinos in the U.S. and to discriminate against immigrant communities of color. The lawsuits say there is no reliable method for counting people in the U.S. illegally and the order will diminish the accuracy of the census.
The president’s directive breaks with almost 250 years of tradition and is unconstitutional, according to a lawsuit filed by Common Cause, the city of Atlanta and others in federal court in the District of Columbia. Other challenges have been filed or are in the process of being brought by the ACLU on behalf of immigrant rights groups, a coalition of states led New York Attorney General Letitia James and civil rights groups already suing the Trump administration over an effort to gather citizenship data through administrative records.
Trump issued the order to gather citizenship data on U.S. residents through administrative records last year after the U.S. Supreme Court blocked his administration’s effort to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census form. Opponents said a citizenship question would have discouraged participation in the nation’s head count, not only by people living in the country illegally but also by citizens who fear that participating would expose noncitizen family members to repercussions.
The Democratic-led House Committee on Oversight and Reform is asking Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Census Bureau director Steven Dillingham and other officials to testify about the Republican president’s directive at a hearing next Wednesday.
During a virtual news conference on Saturday, the chair of the House committee, Democratic U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York, called the order “blatantly unconstitutional and illegal.”
“Congress is empowered to determine how the census is conducted, not the president,” Maloney said.
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