Three federal judges in California have ruled against a presidential executive order aiming to exclude people in the US illegally from the 2020 census count and subsequent congressional district reapportionment. A similar lawsuit filed by the state of New York is already before the Supreme Court.
The plaintiffs that brought the suit consisted of individuals, a nongovernmental organization, and government entities. The plaintiffs argued that President Donald Trump’s July order in the form of a Presidential Memorandum would lead to an undercount of people in California relative to other states, “thus depriving them of their ‘fair share of representation in the United States House of Representatives.'” Moreover, they asserted that an undercount would lead to “a dilution of political power and a loss of federal funding.” A study conducted by the Pew Research Center has estimated that California would lose a congressional seat if the order stands. More than 2 million of the state’s residents are in the country illegally.
The Presidential Memorandum provided that “[t]he Constitution does not specifically define which persons must be included in the apportionment base” and that “affording congressional representation” to states based on the presence of people unlawfully in the US “undermines [the] principles of representative democracy.” Trump alleged that including undocumented immigrants in the country’s population count “would create perverse incentives and undermine our system of government.”
On Thursday, Ninth Circuit Judge Richard Clifton and US District Judges Lucy Koh and Edward Chen found the President’s order violates the US Constitution, the Census Act, the Reapportionment Act, and separation of powers. The three-judge panel wrote in the unanimous opinion that “[t]he policy which the Presidential Memorandum attempts to enact has already been rejected by the Constitution, the applicable statutes, and 230 years of history.”
The Trump Administration sent a notice of appeal to the US District Court of Northern California less than 24 hours after the decision. The Supreme Court will hear the New York case against Trump and the order at the end of this month.