President Donald Trump issued an order on Tuesday to exclude undocumented immigrants from the U.S. population count for the purpose of determining representation in Congress.
The U.S. Constitution requires a census of the “whole number of persons” residing in each state, language that replaced the clause that stated that enslaved people should be counted as three-fifths of a person for purposes of apportionment.
Excluding undocumented immigrants could dramatically reduce the poitical power of states including California and Texas.
“Last summer in the Rose Garden, I told the American people that I would not back down in my effort to determine the citizenship status of the United States population,” Trump said in a statement on Tuesday. “Today, I am following through on that commitment by directing the Secretary of Commerce to exclude illegal aliens from the apportionment base following the 2020 census.”
Last year the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the the Trump administration’s effort to add a citizenship question to the U.S. Census.
“There used to be a time when you could proudly declare, ‘I am a citizen of the United States.’ But now, the radical left is trying to erase the existence of this concept and conceal the number of illegal aliens in our country,” Trump said in his statement. “This is all part of a broader left-wing effort to erode the rights of Americans citizens, and I will not stand for it.”
Allowing states that are home to large numbers of undocumented immigrants to count them for purposes of representation in Congress undermines the principles of representative democracy, Trump’s order declares.
“States adopting policies that encourage illegal aliens to enter this country and that hobble federal efforts to enforce the immigration laws passed by the Congress should not be rewarded with greater representation in the House of Representatives,” the order states.
Civil liberties groups immediately pledged to take legal action to block the order.
“The Constitution requires that everyone in the U.S. be counted in the census,” said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “President Trump can’t pick and choose. He tried to add a citizenship question to the census and lost in the Supreme Court. His latest attempt to weaponize the census for an attack on immigrant communities will be found unconstitutional. We’ll see him in court, and win, again.”