The New Legal War Over Trump’s Anti-Immigrant Census Policy Kicks Off

As the Supreme Court justices hear oral arguments over the 2020 census citizenship question, protesters have gathered outside the building in support of a fair and accurate census and demanding to not include the con... As the Supreme Court justices hear oral arguments over the 2020 census citizenship question, protesters have gathered outside the building in support of a fair and accurate census and demanding to not include the controversial question in the next census. Tuesday, April 23, 2019, Washington, D.C. (Photo by Aurora Samperio/NurPhoto via Getty Images) MORE LESS
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July 22, 2020 10:28 a.m.

The first official shot in what could be a massive legal war over President Trump’s new anti-immigrant census policy was fired on Wednesday, in an existing case that immigrant rights groups had previously brought against the administration.

Trump directed the Census Bureau on Tuesday to exclude undocumented immigrants from the count that will be used to dole out U.S. House seats among the states. The policy will boost the electoral power of white, rural parts of the country, while starving immigrant-rich regions of representation.

The administration was already facing a lawsuit challenging the underlying citizenship data project that will fuel this new policy.

In that case, the groups suing the administration — Asian Americans Advancing Justice and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund — told the court on Wednesday that they will be expanding their lawsuit to target the new policy dealing with congressional apportionment as well.

The new policy presents the “same attendant issues of lack of accuracy and discrimination against Latinos, non-U.S. citizens and those who live near non-U.S. citizens,” as the data collection project, the groups said.

“Plaintiffs allege that this exclusion from apportionment intends to discriminate, and will result in discrimination against these groups,” the filing said. “Accordingly, Plaintiffs give notice that they intend to seek leave of Court to amend their complaint to include new allegations and claims.”

The most high-profile census-related lawsuit against the administration, challenging its efforts to put a citizenship question on the 2020 survey, culminated in a loss for the President at the Supreme Court. The court concluded that the administration had given bogus reasons for wanting the question added by claiming that the Justice Department would use the data for Voting Rights Act enforcement.

After that ruling, Trump announced that the Census Bureau would be assembling the citizenship data by using existing government records instead.

It quickly became clear that the project was aimed at providing states citizenship data so that they could exclude non-citizens when they redrew their legislative maps next year. That approach would likewise shift political power from diverse communities to white ones, and the scheme attracted the current lawsuit from MALDEF and AAAJ.

President Trump took his anti-immigrant crusade to the next level on Tuesday by announcing that undocumented immigrants will be excluded from the apportionment count, which also determines each state’s allocation of Electoral College votes.

The challenge to that policy Trump will be facing from MALDEF and AAAJ will likely not be the only one. ACLU has also said it will take Trump to court over it, as has the New York Attorney General Letitia James.

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