The challengers to Trump’s July directive include various states led by New York, cities, counties and immigrant rights groups. They have argued that the Republican president’s move could leave several million people uncounted and cause California, Texas and New Jersey to lose seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
House districts are based on a state’s population count in the decennial national census.
The challengers have said Trump’s plan would dilute the political clout of states with larger numbers of illegal immigrants, including heavily Democratic California, by undercounting their true populations and depriving them of House seats. If California loses House districts, that likely would mean Democrats lose House seats, benefiting Republicans.
There are an estimated 11 million immigrants living in the United States illegally. Until now, the government’s practice was to count all people regardless of their citizenship or immigration status. The U.S. Constitution requires the apportionment of House seats to be based upon the “whole number of persons in each state.”
The challengers have argued that Trump’s policy violates both the Constitution and the Census Act, a federal law that outlines how the census is conducted. Trump’s lawyers said in court papers that he acted within his authority and that the challengers lacked the necessary legal standing to bring the case….
Conservative Justice Samuel Alito, in questioning Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall during the argument, said that for the administration to exclude all of the illegal immigrants living in the United States from the population count “seems to me a monumental task.”
“I would think you would be able to tell us whether that remains a realistic possibility at this point,” Alito said.
After conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett, a Trump appointee, asked about the fact that the government during the entire history of the United States has included illegal immigrants in the population count, Wall acknowledged that this was the case and added that this represented “the best argument for the other side.”
Barrett told Wall that a lot of the historical evidence and longstanding government practice “really cuts against your position.”
Wall suggested that the court allow Trump’s administration to proceed with its plans and then rule on the legality after the fact if there are legal challenges at that time….
The Supreme Court last year ruled 5-4 against Trump’s effort to add a citizenship question to the census. Critics said the question was intended to frighten immigrants from taking part in the population count and artificially reduce population numbers in heavily Democratic areas, also to benefit Republicans….