What you need to know about the Supreme Court census case


On Monday, the Supreme Court heard arguments on a question that is at the heart of American democracy: Should the government reckon with everyone living in the country, citizens or not, in aggregating the census that the House of Representatives uses to reallocate 435 seats to states?

For more than two centuries, the answer has been “yes”. Both Article 1 and Amendment 14 of the Constitution require that seats be allocated in each state according to the “total number of persons”. This term has long been read to include all residents of the country, be it American citizens, foreigners entering here, or immigrants who do not have documents. But President Trump has indicated in a summer memorandum that he wants to exclude unauthorized immigrants from the 2020 census, which he hopes can send to the House next year for reallocation.

Federal courts have ruled in three separate lawsuits that Mr. Trump lacks this authority, claiming in one case that the issue was far from over. But the Supreme Court will have the final say. Here are some basics of the background to the problem:

Primarily the division of political power. There is no exact number of unauthorized immigrants. Mr Trump has ordered the Census Bureau to make an estimate, but many experts estimate the number at around 11 million.

Many are concentrated in states with large immigrant populations, such as New York and Texas, and in states such as California and Florida, where undocumented immigrants are also needed for agricultural work. Some of these states and a few others could lose their place in the house if unauthorized immigrants are excluded from the census aggregate.

In contrast, some states with few unauthorized immigrants may take up these places. For example, Alabama appears to lose one of its seven houses on the next redistribution; in a separate lawsuit, the state argues that undocumented immigrants illegally deprive their citizens of fair representation. Many experts believe that restricting counting to citizens would generally benefit rural and republican states to the detriment of urban and democratic states. But the Republican Party’s profits are likely to be small, say most, given that large Republican states like Texas are among those that could be affected by the change.

The Department of Justice argues that federal law gives the president discretion to make the political decisions that the census counts on. This discretion includes the definition of a “resident” or “regular resident” of the United States, two terms that have historically been used to describe people eligible to participate in the census.

According to the president’s attorneys, federal law gives the “virtually unlimited discretion” to the Department of Commerce, the federal agency overseeing the Census Bureau, to decide what data is used to count the residents of each state.

Opponents of the president’s plan say they have a 230-year history. Non-citizens have been reported in every census – and used in every redistribution of the house – since the first census in 1790. In the early history of the nation, a significant portion of the population emigrated from other countries and for many decades thereafter. , some states have actively recruited foreigners to secure labor and strengthen political representation. The creators of the Constitution decided to exclude a few people from the census – defining “untaxed Indians” and, most notably, decided to count someone who had become a slave as three-fifths of a person but leave citizens intact. The authors of Amendment 14 debated whether all immigrants should be counted for apportionment purposes and were ultimately elected.

Opponents also say the Constitution explicitly provides for the ten-year census to be used for redistribution and that Mr Trump has no power to deduct unauthorized immigrants from this census before sending the population aggregate to the House.

Three courts – in New York, Maryland and California – have ruled against the White House for a variety of reasons, and in some cases banned the Department of Commerce from sending countless unauthorized immigrants to the White House. A California court ruled that the exclusion of non-citizens violated both federal law and the Constitution.

In New York, a panel of three judges, appointed by two Presidents George W. Bush and one by President Barack Obama, unanimously stated that “the merits of the dispute between the parties are not particularly close or complicated.” According to the panel, federal law required the government to produce a single population stock for reallocation, which raises Mr. Trump’s plan for a separate estimate of unauthorized immigrants. Judges also said that “as long as they live in the United States, illegal aliens are considered a” state “in a” state “because Congress used those words.”

For this reason, the judges said there was no need to raise the question of whether the president’s plan also violated the constitution.

It would be extremely difficult, if only because many of them would do everything in their power to avoid them for fear of deportation. The Trump administration ordered the Census Bureau to compile a citizenship issue during the 2020 census to try to count, but the Supreme Court ruled in 2019 that the Department of Commerce did not provide a credible explanation for why the issue was necessary.

At the direction of the President, the Census Bureau ‘s working group is already working to account, especially by screening the federal and state records, which convincingly show who is a citizen – and who is not. A compilation of a handful of documents, such as those marked for deportation, identifies people who are staying in the county illegally, but these numbers make up only a small portion of the total population of unauthorized immigrants.

It is unlikely that the bureau will make an estimate of unauthorized immigrants by December 31 by the legal deadline for sending the total amount of the population to the White House. Census Bureau officials told the Commerce Department this month that the 2020 census itself can only be completed after Trump leaves office on January 20th. The office’s specialists are nonetheless competing to end the number of unauthorized immigrants in Mr. Trump in early or mid-January.