The White House is likely to unveil Friday an executive order by President Trump banning the Census Bureau from counting undocumented immigrants in its 2020 decennial survey, Politico reported.
The Politico report did not offer any more details on what this order would look like.
The ban, if announced, will certainly be litigated. The Constitution mandates a “actual Enumeration” every 10 years so that “all persons” can be counted for the purposes of allotting U.S. representatives among the states.
Some GOP anti-immigration hardliners, like former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, have argued that there was some legal wiggle room that would allow for undocumented immigrants to not be counted in congressional apportionment.
In fact, when Kobach was privately lobbying Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in 2017 for a citizenship question to be added the census, he urged also a question on legal status for that very purpose.
Once the emails became public, Ross distanced himself from Kobach’s proposal by pointing out that the version of the citizenship question the administration has tried to put on the census did not include a legal status question.
The version of the question the administration had tried to add was blocked by the Supreme Court last year. The majority concluded that the administration’s stated reason for adding it — to improve Justice Department enforcement of the Voting Rights Act — was bogus.
There has been some discussion in conservative circles of seeking to exclude non-citizens — with legal status or otherwise — from the count states use to draw their legislative districts. But any attempt to do that would also face a legal challenge.
After the citizenship question was blocked, President Trump ordered the Census Bureau to produce citizenship data based on existing government records. The order offered a rudimentary approach for using that data to determine the number of undocumented immigrants in the country.
It is not clear whether that approach is what the administration has in mind with the the order it is reportedly likely to issue.
Regardless of the form this new reported measure takes and whether it is allowed to go into effect, just the discussion of it will inject even more chaos in what has already been an extremely challenging decennial count for the Census Bureau.
The pandemic has forced the Census Bureau to delay many of its operations, including certain in-person enumeration activities, by months.
This latest news stands to sow more confusion, and could chill the census participation of not just undocumented immigrants, but their family members who are in the U.S. legally.
These chilling effects will skew the census to Republicans’ advantage. The kind of undercount it would produce would shift government and political representation away from diverse, Democratic-leaning communities, in favor of red, rural parts of the countries.
An official policy — if allowed to stand by the courts — that undocumented immigrants not be included in apportionment or redistricting counts would further exacerbate those consequences.