2nd Court Blocks Trump’s Bid to Exclude Illegal Aliens From Census

October 22, 2020 Updated: October 22, 2020

A federal court in California on Thursday has blocked the Trump administration’s effort to exclude illegal aliens from the 2020 census count that is used to apportion congressional seats.

This is the second time a federal court has ruled against President Donald Trump’s memorandum issued on July 21 that excluded illegal aliens from the congressional apportionment count.

A three-judge panel for the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California ruled that the memo violates the Constitution and two federal laws dealing with the Census.

“Our decision is not based on any preference we might have on the question of whether, as a matter of policy, undocumented immigrants should be included for purposes of determining the apportionment of seats in the House of Representatives,” the judges wrote in an unsigned opinion (pdf).

“Our conclusion is based upon our determination of what the law requires. The policy which the Presidential Memorandum attempts to enact has already been rejected by the Constitution, the applicable statutes, and 230 years of history,” they added.

The July 21 memo, which is at the center of the case, stated that “it is the policy of the United States to exclude from the apportionment base aliens who are not in a lawful immigration status,” for the purpose of the reapportionment of Congress members following the 2020 census.

“Excluding these illegal aliens from the apportionment base is more consonant with the principles of representative democracy underpinning our system of government. Affording congressional representation, and therefore formal political influence, to states on account of the presence within their borders of aliens who have not followed the steps to secure a lawful immigration status under our laws undermines those principles,” the memo states.

The memo has been challenged several times in different courts across the country. A three-judge panel in a New York district court in September ruled that Trump’s memorandum excluding illegal aliens from congressional apportionment count was an illegal overreach of the president’s authority as delegated by Congress.

The judges declared the presidential memo unlawful and granted an injunction blocking the administration from enforcing it.

This prompted the Trump administration to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. The top court on Oct. 16 has agreed to review that case.

The California case consolidates two cases brought by California, Californian cities, counties, immigrant advocacy groups, and individuals. They claim that excluding illegal immigrants from the congressional apportioned count would lead to an undercount of persons, which in turn would result in the state to lose a seat or seats in Congress.

They also say by losing a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, it would mean the state would also lose federal funding and impact their ability to perform critical governmental functions.

The judges granted a permanent injunction that was broader than the injunction issued in the New York court. The injunction blocks Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who oversees the Census, from delivering any report that is part of the decennial census to the president.

“The balance of hardships tips sharply in Plaintiffs’ favor. Nor would the public interest be disserved by a permanent injunction that prohibits an unlawful policy,” the judges wrote.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D), who brought one of the lawsuits, welcomed the decision.

“A complete, accurate census count is critical for ensuring Californians are heard in Congress—and that we get the resources we need to protect the health and well-being of our communities,” Becerra said in a statement.

The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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