Administration Moves to Undermine Census Count for Apportionment

On July 21, 2020, President Trump issued a memo instructing the Commerce Department to exclude undocumented immigrants from the Census 2020 count as it relates to apportionment of Congressional representatives.

The move is notable for many reasons.   First, it is unprecedented.   The number of Congressional representatives apportioned among the states has been based on  the count of all “persons” living in each state, without regard to immigration status,  since ratification of the 14th Amendment.

Second, the challenges of accurately discerning who is and isn’t authorized cannot be underestimated.   The Migration Policy Institute estimates that millions of U.S. citizens could be excluded from the apportionment count as a result.

Third, while omitting undocumented immigrants would likely cause blue states like California to lose a representative, the Pew Research Center predicts that it would also result in loss of a Congressional seat in Texas and Florida, both red states.  So, any political motivation behind this unprecedented action would see mixed results.

In any case, the administration’s action is already being challenged in the courts.  Whether the courts will block it, as happened with the administration’s ultimately unsuccessful attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 decennial census, remains to be seen.