|Saying the president had exceeded his authority, a panel of three federal judges on Thursday blocked an order from President Donald Trump that tried to exclude people in the country illegally from being counted when congressional districts are redrawn.
The federal judges in New York, in granting an injunction, said the presidential order issued in late July was unlawful. The judges prohibited Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, whose agency oversees the U.S. Census Bureau, from excluding people in the country illegally when handing in 2020 census figures used to calculate how many congressional seats each state gets.
According to the judges, the presidential order violated laws governing the execution of the once-a-decade census and also the process for redrawing congressional districts known as apportionment by requiring that two sets of numbers be presented ? one with the total count and the other minus people living in the country illegally.
The judges said that those in the country illegally qualify as people to be counted in the states they reside. They declined to say whether the order violated the Constitution.
“Throughout the Nation’s history, the figures used to determine the apportionment of Congress ? in the language of the current statutes, the ‘total population’ and the ‘whole number of persons’ in each State ? have included every person residing in the United States at the time of the census, whether citizen or non-citizen and whether living here with legal status or without,” the judges wrote.
Opponents of the order said it was an effort to suppress the growing political power of Latinos in the U.S. and to discriminate against immigrant communities of color. They also said undocumented residents use the nation’s roads, parks and other public amenities and should be taken into account for any distribution of federal resources.
The lawsuits challenging the presidential order in New York were brought by a coalition of cities, civil rights groups and states led by New York. Because the lawsuits dealt with questions about apportionment, it was heard by a three-judge panel that allows the decision to be appealed directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The judges agreed with the coalition that the order created confusion among undocumented residents over whether they should participate in the 2020 census, deterring participation and jeopardizing the quality of the census data. That harm to the census was a sufficient basis for their ruling and they didn’t need to rely on the speculation that a state would be hurt by possibly losing a congressional seat if people in the country illegally were excluded from apportionment, the judges said.