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New Trump memo omits illegal aliens from census count used to determine House seats

Democrats are furious

Sarah Silbiger/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Donald Trump signed a memorandum Tuesday aiming to exclude the illegal immigrant population from the 2020 census apportionment base used to determine how many House seats each state will have.

"For the purpose of the reapportionment of Representatives following the 2020 census, it is the policy of the United States to exclude from the apportionment base aliens who are not in a lawful immigration status," the president wrote in the memo, arguing that the new policy "is more consonant with the principles of representative democracy."

Under the new guidelines, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and census officials are directed to provide the president with the total number of undocumented immigrants living in the United States, at which point the president can exclude that number from the apportionment base.

The memo argues that the Constitution "does not specifically define which persons must be included in the apportionment base." It suggests that the illegal immigrant population should be categorized similarly to other groups — such as those who are in the country only temporarily for business or tourism, or foreign diplomatic personnel — that are not counted in the apportionment base.

"My administration will not support giving congressional representation to aliens who enter or remain in the country unlawfully, because doing so would create perverse incentives and undermine our system of government," Trump said in a statement announcing the new policy.

What's the background?

President Trump has been working diligently to include citizenship data in the 2020 census. Last year, his administration attempted to include a citizenship question in the census, but that move was effectively blocked by the Supreme Court.

After the citizenship question effort stalled out, Trump directed the Department of Commerce in an executive order "to strengthen its efforts, consistent with law, to obtain State administrative records concerning citizenship."

As a part of that effort, the administration began reaching out to individual states in order to arrange data-sharing agreements. As of last week, the administration had entered such agreements with four states — Iowa, Nebraska, South Carolina, and South Dakota — which agreed to share driver's license and state identification information.

Democrats are furious

Immediately following its announcement, Democrats in Congress slammed the memo and promised a legal fight.

Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer chalked it up as an unconstitutional attempt to disparage immigrant communities.

Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi similarly promised to contest the move, calling it "unconstitutional and unlawful."

Democratic members of the House Oversight Committee, including Chair Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), announced that they would hold an emergency meeting next week to discuss a plan of action against the move.

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