California Sues Over Trump Bid to Exclude Undocumented Immigrants From Census Tally

(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

(CN) — California on Tuesday fired off its shot in a multipronged battle to block President Donald Trump’s recent bid to exclude undocumented immigrants from U.S. census reporting used to apportion the number of seats states get in the House of Representatives.

A July 21 memorandum signed by Trump directs the Commerce Department, which oversees the U.S. Census Bureau and is conducting the 2020 census, to exclude undocumented residents from the final apportionment statement sent to the president. Typically, the president sends Congress a statement on how seats in the House should be divided based on the Commerce Department’s report.

The U.S. Constitution mandates that each state’s representation in Congress reflect all residents — regardless of their eligibility to vote — and requires an enumeration of the nation’s total population every 10 years.

Becerra told reporters Tuesday the state’s lawsuit — California’s 92nd against the Trump administration — asserts that the memorandum on apportionment clearly seeks to circumvent constitutional requirements.

“You can’t be a law-and-order president if you keep breaking the law,” Becerra said during a virtual press conference. “Not even the president can sidestep the U.S. Constitution.”

The 21-page lawsuit, filed Tuesday in the Northern District of California, seeks a preliminary and permanent block on the implementation of the memorandum and a federal court order declaring the Trump administration’s action unconstitutional.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is also a named defendant.

Along with determining representation in Congress, the census also dictates allocation of federal funding. Becerra said Trump’s action would strip California cities and counties of critical funding for schools, transportation infrastructure, public parks and more. 

“It would deny California what it has a right to and what it has earned,” Becerra said. “My simple message to the president is: obey the law. You’re not above it.”

The cities of Los Angeles, Long Beach and Oakland are named co-plaintiffs in the complaint.

Monica Garcia, board member for the LA Unified School District — also a plaintiff in the lawsuit — told reporters the district’s large number of undocumented families would be directly impacted by any change in census reporting.

“We call out this attack on our students and the LA Unified community,” Garcia said. “We are watching bullying in action.”

LA City Attorney Mike Feuer told reporters Tuesday the president’s memo — titled: “Excluding Illegal Aliens from the Apportionment Base Following the 2020 Census” — is Trump’s latest effort to dilute the political power of states and cities where large numbers of immigrants live.

“This is just the latest move as he continues to violate the Constitution, all in service of a xenophobic and political agenda,” Feuer said of Trump. “Although, he may be having an impact because responses to the census are down dramatically.”

With at least 2.2 million undocumented immigrants, California could lose as many as three congressional seats if the census is reported as Trump demands, Feuer said.

A coalition of nearly 30 states and local governments including New York, Colorado, Chicago and Phoenix filed a similar legal challenge last week to the Trump administration’s move. The coalition wants a federal judge to block the change because it violates the Constitution’s enumeration clause, the Fifth Amendment’s due process clause, the 10th Amendment’s protections of states’ rights, the 14th Amendment and the Administrative Procedure Act.

The city of Atlanta filed its own legal challenge of the memorandum shortly after Trump announced it. San Jose, California, King County, Washington state and Arlington County, Virginia, have also piled on.

A White House spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on California’s lawsuit.

Both New York and California, which have a combined 80 seats in the House, led the successful lawsuit against the Trump administration’s quest to include a citizenship question on the census. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously the evidence plainly undercut the Trump administration’s explanations for adding the question, though the high court was divided on whether Secretary Ross had abused his discretion when he added it.

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