New York Attorney General Letitia James today scored another major victory in the fight to protect the 2020 Decennial Census from the Trump Administration by stopping President Donald Trump’s attempts to exclude undocumented immigrants from the apportionment base following the census count.
“President Trump’s repeated attempts to hinder, impair, and prejudice an accurate census and the subsequent apportionment have failed once again,” said Attorney General James. “The courts have ruled in our favor on every census matter in the last two years and continually rejected President Trump’s unlawful efforts to manipulate the census for political purposes. We cannot allow the White House’s constant fearmongering and xenophobia to stop us from being counted. We urge everyone to fill out the census, if they have not already, and we will continue to take every legal action available to ensure all communities are counted, all communities are properly represented, and all communities get the federal funding they need and deserve.”
In July, Attorney General James led a coalition of states, cities, and counties in filing a lawsuit against President Trump, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, and others after they announced that they would illegally leave millions of undocumented immigrants out of the apportionment base that establishes the number of members in the House of Representatives that each state receives. The lawsuit sought to stop the Trump Administration from violating the longstanding constitutional and statutory requirement to count the “whole number of persons” residing in the country for apportionment, without regard to immigration status.
Today, a three-judge court agreed with Attorney General James that the president’s plan to exclude undocumented immigrants from the apportionment base was unlawful. The court stated, “The merits of the parties’ dispute are not particularly close or complicated.” In the decision, the court held that President Trump was violating the law by seeking to change the apportionment base, and that “the President must act in accordance with, and within the boundaries of, the authority that Congress has granted. For the reasons discussed above, we conclude that the President did not do so here and that the Presidential Memorandum is an ultra vires violation of Congress’s delegation of its constitutional responsibility to count the whole number of persons in each State and to apportion members of the House of Representatives among the States according to their respective numbers under.”
Today’s victory is just the latest in a long list of actions Attorney General James has taken to protect the integrity of the 2020 Decennial Census. In 2018, the Office of the Attorney General filed a lawsuit against the Trump Administration in response to its efforts to add a citizenship question to the census. That suit made its way through multiple courts, eventually landing in the U.S. Supreme Court last year, where the court ruled, last June, in favor of New York by prohibiting the Trump Administration from adding the citizenship question to the census. In August of last year, Attorney General James moved to intervene in a separate census case in Alabama where the federal government were defendants, in an effort to ensure the case is properly presented and that every resident in America — irrespective of citizenship status — is counted in the census. Additionally, late last month, Attorney General James led a large coalition in taking legal action against the Trump Administration’s efforts to impair the 2020 Decennial Census by reducing — by an entire month, from October 31 to September 30 — the time in which self-response questionnaires will be accepted and door-to-door follow-ups by census enumerators will take place. Just this past weekend, a district court issued a temporary restraining order to temporarily halt the president’s plan to impair the census.
Joining Attorney General James in filing the lawsuit subject of today’s victory were the attorneys general of Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia. The attorneys general were joined by the cities of Central Falls, RI; Chicago, IL; Columbus, OH; New York, NY; Philadelphia, PA; Phoenix, AZ; Pittsburgh, PA; Providence, RI; Seattle, WA; and the city and county of San Francisco. Additionally, Cameron, El Paso, and Hidalgo Counties in Texas; Howard County in Maryland; and Monterey County in California joined the lawsuit; as did the U.S. Conference of Mayors.