The Supreme Court agreed Sept. 30 to expedite consideration of the Trump administration’s appeal of a lower court ruling barring the government from excluding illegal aliens from the 2020 Census count.
The administration wants to keep illegal aliens out of the census count, which will determine how congressional seats and federal dollars are allocated.
Federal law states that the secretary of Commerce must send the census count to the president by Dec. 31, and that in turn the president must send Congress the figures for allocating House seats by Jan. 10. Separately, a federal judge in California has extended that first deadline to April 30, an order the Trump administration is also fighting in the courts.
But a three-judge federal panel in the Southern District of New York found Sept. 10 that Congress never provided the president with the authority to exclude illegal aliens from the census count.
States, local governments, and interest groups sued to prevent the plan from moving forward. They argued that Trump was attempting to interfere with the count and prevent Democrat-leaning areas with large illegal-alien populations from gaining congressional seats.
Litigants opposed to the plan, including the states of New York, Colorado, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, along with the U.S. Conference of Mayors, New York Immigration Coalition, and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, were ordered to file a brief with the Supreme Court by Oct. 7 explaining their position. The Trump administration requests that oral arguments be heard in November or December.
This isn’t the first census-related case that has made it to the Supreme Court in the Trump era.
On June 27, 2019, in Department of Commerce v. New York, the court rejected on a 5–4 vote the administration’s rationale for asking individuals responding to the 2020 Census whether they were U.S. citizens, even though the question had been asked many times before in the decennial headcount.
Backed by the four liberal justices, Chief Justice John Roberts rejected Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s claim that the citizenship question was needed to gather data to help enforce the Voting Rights Act, writing the rationale “seems to have been contrived.”