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Updated at 4:22 p.m. ET
The US Supreme Court ruled directly on Friday whether President Trump can exclude undocumented immigrants from a major census.
The case concerned Trump’s July memorandum instructing the Census Bureau to exclude undocumented immigrants from the ten-year census for the first time in order to redistribute it. The count is used to determine how many seats each state has in the House of Representatives and electoral college.
In an unsigned statement, the court said it was “premature” to rule on the case now as it was “full of contingency and speculation” and even the Trump administration does not know how many undocumented immigrants there are or where they are Life .
At a hearing just 18 days ago, Attorney General Jeffrey Wall, who represented the Trump administration, told judges that “Census Bureau career officials have no idea how many illegal aliens they can identify.” let alone how their number and geographic concentration might affect the division. ”
At the end of the day, the conservative majority in the six judicial tribunal said the case was not yet ready for resolution as none of the 23 states or immigrant groups that had brought the case had been injured.
Although the court’s opinion was unsigned, Chief Justice John Roberts was almost certainly the author. Signaling the result of the oral presentation, he remarked: “At the moment … we don’t know what the president is going to do. We don’t know how many foreigners are being excluded. We don’t know what they are.” The effect will affect the division. “Why, he asked, aren’t we” better advised “to wait until we have this information?
And waiting is what the conservative majority of the courts decided.
The three liberal judges of the court – Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan – disagreed on their contradiction.
Writing for the three, Breyer noted that Trump’s July memorandum specifically set out its purpose to remove congressional seats from mostly democratic states that are now home to many unauthorized immigrants.
“The damage is clear in the face of politics,” said Breyer.
The “costs” of the Trump’s census order are more than “a deviation from the established law”.
“The modern census emerged from a period of intense political conflict when politicians tried to use census procedures to their advantage,” he wrote. “When the 1929 [census] Act, Congress attempted to address this problem by using clear and broad language that would … eliminate opportunities for political gambling. ”
Deviating from the text of this law, he said, “is an open invitation” to allow a return to this type of game art.
While Friday’s decision leaves Trump the option of trying to remove some undocumented immigrants from the census for apportionment purposes, the decision was, at best, a tentative and uncertain victory for the president.
Immigration rights advocates immediately warned that they would sue again if the administration tries to implement the policy.
“We’re going to sue … and we’re going to win,” said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project.
While Friday’s ruling did not comment on the matter, a majority of the judges during the oral argument pointed to hostility towards the Trump administration’s position. Trump’s latest court appointment, Amy Coney Barrett, noted that redistribution would never exclude a state’s residents because of their immigrant status, and she specifically told Solicitor General Wall that “a lot of historical evidence and longstanding practices affect your position.”
For now, however, the court has avoided making any decision on this or any other issue included in Trump’s census policy.
So what happens next is murky. NPR and other news outlets have reported that officials from the Census Bureau have indicated that the pandemic has likely prevented them from meeting the December 31 deadline for submitting their report to the president.
But even if Trump receives the numbers on time and sends them to the House of Representatives as required by law, the Domestic Service, if she so chooses, can refuse to accept them as reliable and throw them back into the new Biden Administration for completion.
It has never happened before. But Trump’s norm-busing attempt to exclude illegal immigrants from the census could create another first.
The case began in July when Trump issued a memorandum instructing the Census Bureau to send him two sets of numbers. One rate should be the total number of people in each state. The second sentence would make it possible to subtract the number of undocumented immigrants in each state from these numbers to determine how many seats each state will get in the House of Representatives.
23 states have challenged Trump’s policy in court, along with immigration rights advocates and other groups. Lower courts blocked Trump’s entry into force, saying he was violating the constitution, the federal census law, or both.
The Trump administration appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that the president had “virtually unlimited discretion” over what data was used for the ten-year census. However, the lower courts denied this claim and judges appointed by both Republicans and Democrats ruled against him.
Government arguments included the claim that undocumented immigrants are not residents, as the authors understood the term when drafting the constitution and deciding on the division of federal power among states.
Countering this argument, states and immigrant groups stated that about two thirds of the unauthorized immigrants I’ve lived in this country for at least 10 years, the median is 15 years.
The litigation hampered an already strained census bureau preparing to roll out the census nationwide when the COVID-19 pandemic kicked off at full speed in April. u