July 21 2020, By Michael Dorgan
Several Queens officials have slammed President Trump for issuing a memorandum that aims to block undocumented immigrants from being counted when the number of congressional seats are determined following the 2020 census.
The memo, which was issued Tuesday, would exclude undocumented immigrants from the population count used to determine how many seats each state is allocated within the House of Representatives.
The memo does not seek to bar undocumented immigrants from the census but instead directs the Commerce department – which runs the census – to provide the Trump administration with the number of undocumented immigrants in the country. The president aims to exclude them from determining how many seats each state will receive in Congress.
New York, which has a high number of undocumented immigrants, would most likely lose seats under the revised count. In addition, billions of dollars in federal funds that are provided to congressional districts would be lost.
Congresswoman Grace Meng blasted the move as unconstitutional and said she would introduce legislation to block the memo from going into force.
“From the Muslim travel ban to separating families at the U.S. – Mexico border, this president will do anything he can to advance his anti-immigrant agenda, and now he is using reapportionment to expand that cruel and un-American effort,” Meng said in a statement Tuesday.
The Trump administration argues that the constitution does not define who is to be included or not in determining apportionment following the census.
“The discretion delegated to the executive branch to determine who qualifies as an ‘inhabitant’ includes authority to exclude from the apportionment base aliens who are not in a lawful immigration status,” Trump’s memo states.
“Excluding these illegal aliens from the apportionment base is more consonant with the principles of representative democracy underpinning our system of government,” it reads.
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney echoed Meng’s remarks and said Trump’s act was an attempt to politicize democratic institutions.
“Taking this step right in the middle of the ongoing Census is particularly egregious and sinister because it appears purposefully designed to depress the count, deter people from filling out their forms, and corrupt the democratic processes on which our nation is founded,” Maloney said in a statement Tuesday.
Maloney said the action would harm entire communities and contradicts sworn testimony by Trump officials that the citizenship question had nothing to do with apportionment purposes.
It is unclear how the Trump administration would gather information on undocumented immigrants given that there is no citizenship question included in the 2020 census. The Trump administration attempted to add a question of citizenship on the 2020 census but the Supreme Court blocked the move last year.
However, the Trump administration may use data compiled by other federal agencies to make a determination. The president issued an executive order following that Supreme Court defeat which ordered several federal agencies to share all available information with the Commerce Department to decipher which respondents are legally in the country and which are not.
Nevertheless, Jackson Heights Council Member Danny Dromm said that the president doesn’t get to choose who is counted on the census.
“When it comes to the United States Census, the Constitution’s mandate is clear: everyone residing in the U.S. must be counted,” Dromm said in a statement Tuesday.
Dromm said the action was little more than a campaign stunt that will be thwarted by the judicial system and voters this November.
Elmhurst Council Member Francisco Moya also said the move was political to gain votes for Republicans.
“All he [Trump] and Republicans care about is that this will help them gerrymander districts to shore up votes and silence immigrant communities,” Moya said in a statement Tuesday.
“Trump doesn’t care about the countless people who depend on the federal programs that will be gouged if this memorandum is followed — programs like Medicare, Medicaid, SNAP, education grants and housing assistance.
Acting Queens Borough President Sharon Lee joined the chorus of complaints, tweeting that Trump has “perpetually tried to weaponize the census.”
“Queens will not be distracted in our efforts to ensure a full and accurate count,” she wrote.
No one can pick and choose who’s counted in the #2020Census, not even the POTUS who has perpetually tried to weaponize the Census. #Queens will not be distracted in our efforts to ensure a full and accurate count. https://t.co/szcZ6VlmUV
— Queens Borough President Sharon Lee (@QueensBP2020) July 21, 2020