Top Court to Hear Trump Clash on Census, Undocumented Immigrants

The U.S. Supreme Court said it will hear arguments on President Donald Trump’s bid to exclude undocumented immigrants from the 2020 census count in a clash that could determine the allocation of House seats and federal dollars.

The court said it will arguments on Nov. 30. By then, the court is likely to have a 6-3 conservative majority, with Amy Coney Barrett on board as the newest justice.

A three-judge panel in New York blocked Trump’s plan as violating federal law. Advocacy groups and states led by New York say Trump is trying to manipulate the count and deprive Democratic-leaning areas with high immigrant populations of congressional seats.

Federal law requires the Commerce secretary to send the census tally to the president by Dec. 31, and the president to send Congress the numbers for allocating House seats by Jan. 10. Trump issued a memorandum in July laying out the plan to exclude undocumented immigrants from both reports.

In its ruling against Trump, the New York panel said the U.S. Census Act requires congressional apportionment to be based on the total number of people in each state. The judges said the administration’s approach also would violate a separate requirement that the Commerce secretary send the president a single set of numbers derived from the census.

In his appeal, Trump said those laws leave room for the president to exercise discretion to exclude people who aren’t in the country legally. Federal law “does not curtail the president’s authority to direct the secretary in making policy judgments that result in the decennial census,” the administration argued in court papers.

‘Whole Number’

The challengers also say the plan violates the Constitution, which requires congressional seats to be apportioned according to the “whole number of persons in each state.”

“The memorandum implements a policy that breaks with more than two hundred years of history and violates the plain text and purpose of both the Census Act and the Constitution,” the New York-led group argued.

The decision to take up the case follows an Oct. 13 Supreme Court order that let the Trump administration end the census count more than two weeks early. Civil rights groups sought to have the count continue until Oct. 31, saying an early stop would leave minorities undercounted.

The Supreme Court last year blocked the administration’s effort to include a citizenship question on the decennial census.

The case is Trump v. State of New York, 20-366.

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