Landmark Supreme Court Census Case to be heard on November 30th
November 20, 2020
By Katherine Ungar, JD, Policy Associate
Clear and accurate census data is the life blood for a strong country and strong Ohio. Census data is used to calculate the number of representatives that Ohio can send to the US House of Representatives, the amount of federal funding that the state and local governments received from the federal government, and the level of need for community services. Specifically, census data is used to distribute federal money — currently about $675 billion a year — to states and communities for schools, hospitals and roads, as well as Medicaid, welfare, school lunches, food stamps, college grant money for low-income students and dozens of other programs for those in need.
But Covid-19, in combination with egregious and capricious efforts to exclude certain immigrants from the census count, and other policy decisions have placed Ohio’s communities at risk of an inaccurate count in the 2020 census, limiting their political power and federal funding for critical programs over the next decade.
Supreme Court to Decide Whether Trump Administration Can Exclude Undocumented Immigrants from 2020 Census
On July 21st, President Trump signed a memorandum to exclude undocumented immigrants from census results, an effort to minimize undocumented immigrants’ role in census results. This effort attempts to layer on a process that would manipulate census data after its collection for the purposes of congressional redistricting and apportionment. This action is both contrary to federal law and clearly unconstitutional.
Next week, the Supreme Court will hear President Trump’s push to Exclude Undocumented Immigrants from the 2020 Census. The U.S. Constitution is clear, everyone living in the United States– every child, every adult, everyone– is to be counted as part of the decennial census.
The outcome of the case could impact the distribution of 6 or more congressional seats next year and change how the nation has calculated congressional seats throughout its entire history. The case will be heard in the Supreme Court on November 30th, on appeal from a special panel of New York federal judges who on September 10, 2020, ruled that the effort to exclude undocumented immigrants was in violation of federal law.
A number of groups have filed amicus briefs in the case, including The United States House of Representatives, and former directors of the U.S. Census Bureau Kenneth Prewitt, Vincent Barabba and Robert Groves. When asked about the action, Nancy Pelosi explained, “The President’s memorandum seeking to exclude undocumented immigrants from being counted in the 2020 Census violates the Constitution and the rule of law. As the amicus brief filed by the House of Representatives makes clear, the Constitution unambiguously requires an ‘actual Enumeration’ of the ‘whole numbers of persons’ for the population count and Congressional apportionment.”
In the brief filed by former Census Bureau Directors, the brief provides that the President’s effort to omit undocumented immigrants from the census apportionment count would harm the Bureau’s “mission to provide relevant, accurate, objective, and trusted statistical information to the public.”
The Census Must Count Everyone and Excluding Certain People from the Count for Reapportionment Purposes is Contrary to Our Constitution and Federal Law
It is crucial to know how many people are living in a community when planning for hospitals, roads, and other important services, including congressional representation. A complete count benefits every local community and helps the government allocate resources fairly.
The Constitution requires the census to count everyone living in the United States. There is no exception for citizenship or immigration status. And, federal law requires all adults to respond to the census (the census asks for one response per household). There is no exception for citizenship or immigration status.
Communities grow stronger when we count everyone. An accurate count means that states and communities receive their fair share of federal resources supporting critical services like health care, child care, education services, transportation, and the list goes on. Further, it helps our communities plan for services like health care clinics, by knowing how many people live in a neighborhood or region. When we are all counted, it means that our community’s voices are heard and secures full and fair representation in Congress and in our state and local government.
Census justice is a racial and economic justice issue. Communities that are undercounted do not get their fair share of federal resources, resources of which they are rightfully entitled to. If the Supreme Court were to rule in favor of the Trump Administration’s rule, populations with higher undocumented immigrant populations would be harmed and potentially lose representation. This action would undermine the voice of these vibrant communities.