Advance Notice: Briefs

Nessel joins suit against Trump excluding immigrants in redistricting

By: - July 30, 2020 1:11 pm

Protestors call out President Donald Trump at an immigrant rights rally at the Capitol, July 12, 2019 | Derek Robertson

Attorney General Dana Nessel has joined 20 other AGs, nine cities, four counties and one combined city and county in all corners of the country to sue the President Trump administration for unlawfully excluding undocumented immigrants from each state’s apportionment base.

Trump issued a memorandum on July 21 announcing that “illegal aliens” are to be excluded from the apportionment base following the 2020 census. It declares that Trump intends to do this by not counting undocumented immigrants as part of the “whole number of persons in each State.”

The U.S. census uses this population count  — which has historically always included undocumented immigrants — to determine how many representatives should be apportioned for each state, in accordance with the 14th Amendment.

Attorney General Dana Nessel | Susan J. Demas

Just three days later, Nessel joined a wide-ranging coalition of states and jurisdictions to file a lawsuit against Trump, the U.S. Department of Commerce and its secretary Wilbur Ross, and the U.S. Census Bureau and its director Steven Dillingham. It was filed Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

“This recent action by the Trump administration is a clear breach of the U.S. Constitution and a blatant attempt to politicize a non-partisan process by targeting certain groups of people and advancing a biased agenda,” Nessel said in a statement Friday.

“This country’s founding laws clearly outline the process for the census. Unfortunately, Mr. Trump and this administration are dead wrong if they think those rules can be set aside for politically charged agendas. I’m confident the courts will see justice is served.”

The lawsuit argues that if Trump’s exclusion of undocumented immigrants in each state’s population count is to stand, it could lead to the loss of congressional seats and Electoral College presidential electors, skew the division of electoral districts, reduce federal funds to jurisdictions and degrade the quality of census data used to perform essential government functions.

“Once again, the president is using hateful, discriminatory rhetoric to try to further his political agenda,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a July 21 statement. “The Census was created as a nonpartisan means of counting the people in our country, and responses to the Census will and should remain confidential and used only for statistical purposes, and not to use against people.

Whitmer noted that the U.S. Supreme Court has already struck down Trump’s attempt to add a citizenship question to the Census, adding: “The people of Michigan, and Americans everywhere, rely on the Census for crucial federal funding. President Trump’s agenda will hurt our working families and most vulnerable communities most. This cannot stand.” 

Other participants in the lawsuit include attorneys general from: New York, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and the District of Columbia.

The cities of Central Falls, Chicago, Columbus, New York City, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Providence and Seattle, the city and county of San Francisco, the Texas counties of Cameron, El Paso and Hidalgo and California’s Monterey County have also joined the lawsuit.

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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins is a former Michigan Advance reporter. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service.