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Press Release AG Healey Sues Trump Administration Over Illegal Ploy to Exclude Undocumented Immigrants From Census Data

For immediate release:
7/24/2020
  • Office of Attorney General Maura Healey

Media Contact for AG Healey Sues Trump Administration Over Illegal Ploy to Exclude Undocumented Immigrants From Census Data

Chloe Gotsis

BOSTON Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey today joined a coalition of states, cities and counties in filing a lawsuit against the Trump Administration for attempting to illegally exclude every person from being counted when congressional districts are redrawn.

“The Trump Administration, fueled by its animus toward undocumented immigrants, is attempting to erase their existence in our census data, shift representation in Congress away from states with large immigrant populations, and bypass centuries of historic precedent,” AG Healey said. “In Massachusetts, we stand with our immigrant communities and we are taking this action today to ensure that everyone is counted, and everyone is represented in Congress.”

In a lawsuit filed today, the coalition seeks to stop the Trump Administration from politicizing the census and violating basic constitutional requirements, and aims to ensure that the Administration counts the “whole number of persons” residing in the country for congressional apportionment, as the U.S. Constitution requires. The coalition argues that President Trump’s July 21 presidential memo, declaring his intent to exclude undocumented immigrants from the apportionment, is in direct violation of the Constitution, which requires every person living in the country, regardless of legal status, to be counted for the purpose of apportionment.

The Trump Administration’s effort this week to exclude undocumented immigrants from the apportionment base is just the latest attempt by the federal government to manipulate the census count. In 2019, AG Healey was part of a coalition of 18 attorneys general that successfully blocked the Trump Administration from illegally adding a citizenship question to the 2020 federal census. The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed a previous decision – in AG Healey’s Office’s favor – from a federal district court in New York that found the Trump Administration acted unlawfully in adding the question. The President’s proclamation this week makes its discriminatory purpose abundantly clear: To exclude undocumented persons from the “whole number of persons” that constitutes the basis for congressional apportionment, thereby disproportionately excluding and discriminating against Hispanics and immigrant communities of color.

According to the complaint, the administration’s attempt to block undocumented immigrants from the apportionment base is a violation of the Constitution and overrides more than 200 years of history, practice, and judicial administrative precedents that have established that the congressional apportionment must be based on all people living in each state, regardless of immigration status.

Today’s lawsuit — filed against President Trump, the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Census Bureau, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and Census Director Steven Dillingham —argues that apportionment based on a population count that unlawfully excludes undocumented immigrants will:

  • Lead to the loss of congressional seats and presidential electors in the Electoral College,
  • Skew the division of electoral districts within jurisdictions by impairing state and local redistricting efforts that rely on the census count,
  • Reduce federal funds to state and local jurisdictions by deterring immigrants from responding to the decennial census that is currently underway, and
  • Degrade the quality of census data that states and local jurisdictions rely on to perform critical governmental functions. 

The coalition also argues that previous statements made by President Trump and members of his administration have affirmed that his rationale for excluding undocumented immigrants from the apportionment base has always been motivated by racial animus against immigrants of color, and a desire to curb the political power of immigrant communities of color. The President’s memorandum explicitly states that the Trump Administration’s goal is to reduce political influence and congressional representation to jurisdictions with a larger share of undocumented immigrants. The President’s announcement is clearly intended to promote fear and deter participation in the census by immigrants and their families, as it comes just weeks before enumerators are scheduled to go into the field to encourage households to respond to the census.

The coalition specifically argues that the effort to exclude undocumented immigrants from the apportionment base is a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment; the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment; the Tenth Amendment; and the Administrative Procedure Act, by being both contrary to law and arbitrary and capricious. It also conflicts with long-established Supreme Court precedent. The lawsuit asks the court to force the President and his administration to hold to their obligation to base congressional apportionment on “the whole number of persons in each state” and to forbid them from excluding undocumented immigrants — or any other person — from the apportionment base.

Joining AG Healey in filing today’s lawsuit are the attorneys general of New York, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia. 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 also joined the lawsuit, along with Cameron, El Paso, and Hidalgo Counties in Texas and Monterey County in California.

In AG Healey’s Office, this matter is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Mercy Cover and Ann Lynch, both of the Public Protection & Advocacy Bureau, Civil Rights Division Chief, Abby Taylor, and Deputy State Solicitor David Kravitz.

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Media Contact for AG Healey Sues Trump Administration Over Illegal Ploy to Exclude Undocumented Immigrants From Census Data

Office of Attorney General Maura Healey 

Attorney General Maura Healey is the chief lawyer and law enforcement officer of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
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