John Kruzel, The Hill, December 18, 2020
The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 on Friday to dismiss a challenge to the Trump administration’s exclusion of undocumented immigrants from the U.S. census, the once-per-decade population count used to allocate House seats among the states.
The decision broke along ideological lines, with the court’s six conservative justices finding that the lawsuit brought by nearly two dozen states was premature. The court’s three more liberal members dissented.
If the courts take no further action on President Trump’s plan, the Friday ruling would effectively allow him to subtract undocumented residents from his mandatory January apportionment report to Congress, which could reduce House seats and federal funding among states with large undocumented populations.
But an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) who argued against the Trump plan before the justices last month said more lawsuits would follow if the administration took steps to apply the policy.
The majority’s reluctance to halt Trump’s plan at this time reflected, in part, some of the practical difficulties his administration faces in attempting to implement the presidential memorandum he issued last summer that set the policy in motion.
In July, Trump directed Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to bring him two sets of census data: one that reflects each state’s population, including noncitizens, and another that would allow for the exclusion of undocumented immigrants from the apportionment base.
But it’s unclear how the Commerce Department would carry out Trump’s directive.
In their unsigned opinion Friday, the majority said “the policy may not prove feasible to implement in any manner whatsoever, let alone in a manner substantially likely to harm any of the plaintiffs here.”