Importance of the Census
Recap of Census Activity
Implications of missing deadlines
SUPREME COURT – THE CASE THAT GOES TO THE HEART OF AMERICAN DEMOCRACY
On November 30, the Supreme Court heard arguments on a question that goes to the heart of American democracy: Must the government count everyone living in the country, citizens or not, in the census totals that the House of Representatives uses to reallocate its 435 seats among the states?
Federal law gives “virtually unfettered discretion” to the Commerce Department, the federal agency that oversees the Census Bureau, to decide what data is used in counting individual residents of states. Trump has also stated that states with undocumented immigrants should not benefit from federal funds for those individuals.
For 230 years, the census totals used to apportion Congress have included all residents. Non- citizens have been counted in every census since the first census in 1790. Framers excluded “Indians not taxed” but left all other people, including noncitizens, intact. Trump has no authority to deduct unauthorized immigrants from the census. In addition, Article 1 Section 2 of the Constitution and the 14thAmendment require that House seats be allotted according to the whole number of persons in each state.
The NY Times article reported that the Court “Reacted with frustration and some confusion to Trump’s plan to exclude unauthorized immigrants from the calculations used to allocate seats in the House.” Some of the Justices have stated that the case is premature.
Some remaining issues:
How will the number of undocumented immigrants be determined?
Many who are undocumented try to keep a low profile to avoid possible deportation. Sifting through federal and state records that show conclusively who is a citizen, and by implication who is not, is difficult, time-consuming and basically a guess. Compilations of people marked for deportation do identify people who are in the country illegally, but these tallies are a small fraction of the entire population of unauthorized immigrants.
How will the Supreme Court interpret the forefathers’ meaning of “counted all residents”?
What is at stake with the Supreme Court decision? Allocation of political power!