- Office of Attorney General Maura Healey
Media Contact for AG Healey Fights Efforts to Block Census Count
Boston — Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey today joined a coalition of 26 states, cities, and counties, as well as the U.S. Conference of Mayors, in opposing the state of Alabama’s attempt to refuse to count undocumented immigrants in the 2020 census.
While the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. Census Bureau have been named as defendants in the case, the coalition today moved to intervene as defendants in the federal case of Alabama v. U.S. Department of Commerce to ensure the case is properly presented and that every resident in the country – regardless of their immigration status – is counted in the 2020 census. This case comes in the wake of the Trump Administration’s failed attempt at adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census.
“Every state deserves to be fully counted in the census,” AG Healey said. “We are seeking to intervene in this case to defend our fair representation in Congress and the Electoral College, and to protect the critical federal funds our states receive.”
In May 2018, the state of Alabama and Alabama Congressman Morris J. Brooks Jr. filed a lawsuit against the federal government challenging the Census Bureau’s longstanding policy of counting every resident in the country, including undocumented immigrants in the census. The census is used to distribute billions of dollars in federal funding, and to determine the number of Representatives each state has in Congress and the Electoral College.
Despite Alabama’s claims, the U.S. Constitution as amended by the Fourteenth Amendment clearly mandates that every person in each state, regardless of their immigration status, should be counted. In a similar case decades ago, a decision by a three-judge district court previously determined that the Constitution “requires the counting of the ‘whole number of persons’ for apportionment purposes” and that undocumented immigrants are clearly “persons.”
The coalition argues in today’s motion that recent statements by members of the Trump Administration including U.S. Attorney General William Barr suggest that they will not adequately defend the inclusion of every resident in the census. Barr suggested in July that the Administration would reconsider the issue at the heart of the Alabama case – whether to count undocumented immigrants in the apportionment count. Additionally, the court in the Alabama case recently noted that the defense offered by the U.S. Department of Justice has been “halfhearted” and that allowing intervention will ensure the “best arguments” are made in support of the century-old precedent.
Removing undocumented immigrants from the census count will threaten billions of dollars in federal funding to states across the country including Massachusetts, where immigrants account for nearly 17 percent of the state’s population. These federal funds are used to provide health insurance, assistance for school lunches, housing opportunities, special education, and many other programs that support Massachusetts residents. It could also result in a reduction in the state’s representation in Congress and the Electoral College as well as representation for cities and towns with large immigrant populations in the State House.
In April 2018, AG Healey filed a lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s decision to add the question, arguing that the last-minute addition would jeopardize the accuracy of the federal census, undercount Massachusetts residents, and reduce federal funding to the state. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed a January ruling from the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York that agreed with AG Healey that Trump Administration acted unlawfully in adding a question about citizenship on the 2020 Census.
Joining AG Healey in filing the motion to intervene in the Northern District of Alabama are the attorneys general of New York, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia. Monterey County in California, Hidalgo and Cameron Counties in Texas, the cities of New York, NY; Central Falls, RI; Chicago, IL; Philadelphia, PA; Providence, RI; and Seattle, WA, and the bipartisan U.S. Conference of Mayors have joined as defendants in the suit as well.