Trump Order on Census, Immigrants Shifts Power from Three States

President Donald Trump’s order Tuesday barring undocumented immigrants from being counted for the purpose of determining seats in Congress would shift political power away from California, Texas and New York and to the lower-immigration states of Alabama, Minnesota and Ohio.

The Center for Immigration Studies, an anti-immigration think tank, says that not counting undocumented immigrants in the population numbers used to apportion seats in the House of Representatives would shift three seats.

Trump’s order is likely to be challenged in court, and would not affect the 2020 election. The Democratic National Committee said Tuesday that it would fight the order and that nominee Joe Biden would reverse it if elected in November.

Steven Camarota, who wrote the CIS analysis, said it’s unclear what the practical and legal effect of the order will ultimately be. “At least the president’s order reminds us that the stakes on illegal immigration can be very high,” he said.

Trump Order on Census, Immigrants Shifts Power from Three States

Under the Constitution, apportioning seats in the House of Representatives to the states is the first step in the 10-year process of rebalancing Congress to account for population changes. States then redraw congressional boundaries in a highly politicized process that sometimes results in gerrymandered districts to give one party an advantage.

The order will likely be challenged on the basis that the Constitution says the “whole number of persons” in a state determines the number of House seats and doesn’t explicitly distinguish between citizens and non-citizens.

But beginning in 2024, the plan would also shift power in the Electoral College, which elects the president. Each state receives votes based on the total of its House and Senate members.

Two of the states losing electoral votes — California and New York — are reliably Democratic. Two states gaining — Alabama and Ohio — usually vote Republican.

The memorandum is another attempt by the Trump administration to exclude non-citizens from political representation after the Supreme Court struck down a Census Bureau plan on procedural grounds last year.

The impact of Tuesday’s action would be narrower, because it deals only with apportionment. But it’s also blunted because it addresses only undocumented immigrants and not their U.S.-born children, who are citizens under the 14th Amendment. The order also doesn’t apply to permanent residents and other legal immigrants.

Still, Trump’s order exaggerated the impact, claiming that California would lose two or three seats if not for undocumented immigrants.

The White House did not immediately explain why its analysis differed from the think tank’s. Camarota said his numbers are estimates and could change as the Census Bureau completes its count.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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