Oct 16, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Supreme Court to decide if Trump can exclude undocumented immigrants from census

The Supreme Court building on Oct. 2.

Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Friday said it would decide whether the Trump administration can exclude unauthorized immigrants from the 2020 census count, setting arguments for Nov. 30.

Why it matters: Civil rights groups fear that leaving undocumented people living in the U.S. out of the survey could lead to to an undercount, which would affect how House seats are reapportioned and how federal funding is distributed over the next 10 years.

The big picture: The move comes three days after the Supreme Court allowed the Trump administration to stop census field operations early while litigation over the once-a-decade count continues.

  • Lower courts previously ordered the Commerce Department to continue counting through Oct. 31, but the administration argued that the census must move to the data processing phase immediately to have time to meet an end-of-year deadline.
  • Local governments and civil rights groups sued over the plan to stop the count early, arguing the Trump administration was seeking to accommodate a July order from the president which would exclude unauthorized immigrants from the census.

What they're saying: “President Trump has repeatedly tried — and failed — to weaponize the census for his attacks on immigrant communities," Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, said in an email.

  • "The Supreme Court rejected his attempt last year and should do so again. The legal mandate is clear — every single person counts in the census, and every single person is represented in Congress.”

Of note: Judge Amy Coney Barrett, Trump's nominee to fill Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Supreme Court seat, could take part in the case if she is confirmed by then.

  • The U.S. has counted both citizens and noncitizens since its first survey in 1790.

What's next: The court is expected to rule between the end of this year and early January 2021, when the Trump administration must report census numbers to the House, per AP.

Go deeper: States would lose House seats if census excludes unauthorized immigrants

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