A US court has rejected the Trump administration’s attempt to prevent undocumented immigrants from being counted in the US census, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said on Thursday, hailing the decision as a “huge victory “.
In its decision, the United States District Court in New York said that as long as they reside in the country, undocumented immigrants “are considered” persons in a ‘state’ “who should be counted in the 2020 census, a mandatory survey that is sent to all households in the United States every 10 years.
Their exclusion would have influenced the number of seats in the US House of Representatives allocated to each US state – and critics of Donald Trump, as well as civil rights groups, had accused the US president of trying to politicize the census process for his benefit.
“The president must act in accordance with and within the authority that Congress has granted,” said the three-judge panel in its ruling, which can be appealed to the United States Supreme Court. . “We conclude that the president did not. ”
Trump signed a presidential memorandum in July ordering undocumented immigrants – who, according to recent estimates, number more than 10.5 million people across the country – to be excluded from the count when congressional districts are redistributed.
“Excluding these illegal aliens from the allocation base is more in line with the principles of representative democracy that underpin our system of government,” reads Trump’s memorandum.
In their decision, federal judges in New York City said the presidential order was illegal and the harm it would cause would last for a decade.
The census is also used to allocate federal funds, and immigrant rights groups say undercoverage means communities won’t get the financial support they need to deliver vital programs to residents.
The ACLU was among several groups, as well as US cities and states, to file a federal lawsuit in July against Trump’s order.
Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s voting rights project, said in a statement Thursday that the court’s decision “is a huge victory for the right to vote and the rights of immigrants.”
“President Trump has tried and failed once again to militarize the census against immigrant communities. The law is clear – every person counts in the census, ”Ho said.
The decision was also greeted by Letitia James, the New York state attorney general, who was among the plaintiffs in the case. “President Trump’s repeated attempts to hinder, alter and prejudge census and the subsequent allocation failed once again, ”James said in a statement.
The White House and the Department of Commerce, which oversees the census, did not immediately respond to Reuters requests for comment on Thursday.
The Trump administration had previously attempted to include a question on citizenship in the 2020 US census, another move that has been criticized as an attempt to intimidate undocumented immigrants.
In July, the administration abandoned this plan, saying he would start printing forms that did not include the issue in dispute.
The decision came after a reprimand from the United States Supreme Court, which on June 27 blamed the Trump administration for its initial attempt to add the issue and blocked its efforts.
“I respect the Supreme Court, but I totally disagree with its decision regarding my decision to reinstate a citizenship question on the 2020 census,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement to the time.
Since taking office, the Trump administration has pursued steadfast anti-immigration policies, including a ban on immigration from majority Muslim countries. Many policies have been challenged in court.