Monday, August 10, 2020

Battle brewing over Census count of undocumented immigrants

President Donald J. Trump has made it clear he does not intend to allow the undocumented population to skew the representation of states in the halls of congress or elsewhere.

“We will collect all of the information we need to conduct an accurate census and to make responsible decisions about public policy, voting rights, and representation in Congress,” Trump said.

Immigration issues have been a mainstay of the Trump administration since the day he announced his candidacy. Now, Census policy has intertwined with immigration making Democrats and civic organizations cry foul. (Photo: Samantha Sophia / Unsplash)

The administration’s efforts to include questions about citizenship on Census forms has already drawn the ire of many detractors. The focus of these efforts was made crystal clear in a release form the White House this week, where Trump clearly indicated he would not allow non-citizens to affect the apportionment of representatives in the nation’s capitol.

“Giving congressional representation and political influence to illegal aliens – people who have blatantly disregarded our laws – would be a perversion of our democratic principles,” the White House said in a written statement. “Allowing illegal aliens to be counted for the purpose of apportionment could also create perverse incentives – such as potentially rewarding states that encourage violations of Federal immigration law – that would undermine our system of government.”

The statement went on to say that the Constitution does not specifically define which persons must be included in terms of representation. It merely states they must be apportioned by “what has long been understood to mean the ‘inhabitants’ of each State.”
The backlash from opponents of the president’s stance on illegal immigrants was swift and severe.

“This president will stop at nothing to erase this country’s people of color from representation in our government,” said Nan Aron, president of the Alliance for Justice. “This executive order, issued just days after the president was once again defending the Confederate flag, is his latest attempt to rig our country to preserve white power.

“Combined with his attacks to make it harder for people to vote, this smacks of a desperate appeal to his base following his unpopular handling of the coronavirus pandemic, economic fallout, police brutality, and racial equality protests. Perhaps Trump believes that the many judges he’s appointed with records opposing voting rights and immigrants’ rights will uphold his cruel efforts to count people of color out of our democracy, but he will surely lose in a direct fight with the U.S. Constitution.”

The counting of persons for the purpose of establishing an official “population” count reaches further than just the U.S. House of Representatives. It also affects fund allocation for education and other expenditures. Discounting non-citizens could have a bigger impact on predominantly Hispanic communities beyond who they send to congress.

“As we are in the middle of a pandemic, the timing of these developments adds a transparent layer of cruelty to the Administration’s actions,” said Arturo Vargas, CEO of the NALEO Education Fund, a non-partisan group representing Latino public official. “As almost two-thirds of households have already responded to the census, the policy memorandum is as impractical as it is unconstitutional and would waste billions of taxpayer dollars that have already been spent to carry out the count thus far.

“As the second-largest population group in America, a fair and complete count of the nation’s Latinos is necessary for a successful census. The Administration and Congress must understand that an undercount of Latinos would mean a failed census – a disaster laid at the feet of this President and Administration.”

On the local front, Texas has a larger Latino population than most states; both legal and undocumented. Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa says this is one issue where Texas GOP members should depart from the national leadership.

“Texas is in line to gain congressional districts next year and make sure that more federal dollars and more accurate, fair representation is coming to our neighborhoods and communities,” Hinojosa said. “Trump’s latest ploy to have Republicans hold onto power threatens to stop all of it. It is all about fear and power. It is wrong.

“Y’all means all, especially in Texas. Our Constitutional system was designed so that states would fight for the rights of their citizens. Where are Abbott, Patrick and Paxton on Trump’s latest effort to take representation, power and funding from Texas? Make no mistake about it, if Trump is allowed to exclude people from the census count, there is no state harmed more than Texas.”

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