US court reviews Trump’s decision to exclude undocumented immigrants from population count

WASHINGTON, Nov 30 (Reuters) – US Supreme Court justices will consider President Donald Trump’s move on Monday that seeks to exclude undocumented immigrants from the total population figures used to assign legislative districts to states, a aspect of his tough policy towards immigration.

US President Donald Trump at the White House, Washington, USA, November 20, 2020. REUTERS / Carlos Barria

The court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority and includes three magistrates appointed by Trump, is scheduled to have an 80-minute oral hearing via teleconference.

The judges will decide the case expeditiously and their ruling would be known before the end of the year. That would make it difficult for President-elect Democrat Joe Biden, who will take office on January 20, to review Trump’s plan if it is ratified.

Opponents of Trump’s July provision include several New York-led states, cities, counties and immigrant rights groups. They claim that the Republican president’s move could exclude millions of people and lead to California, Texas and New Jersey losing seats in the House of Representatives.

Lower House districts are based on the state’s population numbers from the national census that is conducted every 10 years.

His opponents have said that Trump’s plan reduces the political influence of states with large numbers of undocumented immigrants, including California, by not counting their actual population and taking away seats in the lower house. If California loses districts, that could possibly mean that Democrats would lose seats in the House of Representatives, benefiting Republicans.

There are an estimated 11 million immigrants living in the United States without documents. Until now, governments counted everyone, regardless of their immigration or citizenship status. The Constitution of the United States requires that the distribution of seats in the House of Representatives be based on “the total number of people in each state.”

Those who reject the measure claim that Trump’s policy violates both the Constitution and the Census Law, a federal law that outlines how the census is conducted. Trump’s attorneys said in court documents that he acted within his authority and that the plaintiffs lack the necessary legal grounds to bring a case.

A three-judge panel from New York ruled against the government in September. Federal courts in California and Maryland have reached the same conclusion in other cases, however, a court in Washington ruled in Trump’s favor.

By statute, the president must send Congress a report in early January with the population of each of the states and the corresponding number of districts for the House of Representatives.

Once states are assigned districts, they draw their boundaries, which will be used in the 2022 legislative elections. The number of seats in the lower house of each state also determines the number of votes the state has in the Electoral College, the system used to determine the winner of the presidential elections.

Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Edited in Spanish by Ricardo Figueroa

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