WASHINGTON. D.C. – Despite mounting political opposition in Utah and elsewhere, President Donald Trump’s executive order of July 21 excluding illegal aliens from Census data used for congressional apportionment may instead be stymied by purely practical issues.
“A team of experts are examining methodologies and options to be employed … (to meet) the Presidential Memorandum issued July 21, 2020,” according to a vague statement released by Census Director Steven Dillingham on Aug. 3.
The problem, in layman’s terms, is that Census managers don’t know which residents to exclude from the apportionment figures since a question regarding citizenship status was removed from the Census questionnaire by a 2019 Supreme Court ruling.
In his executive order, Trump argued that including illegal residents in the congressional apportionment process “would create perverse incentives and undermine our system of government.”
Accurate data from the once-a-decade national headcount of residents is critical for numerous reasons, including determining the redistribution of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, allocating billions of dollars of federal funding for social programs and planning efforts by state/local entities.
The Pew Research Center estimates that Utah is home to nearly 100,000 undocumented residents, many of them Hispanics living in Salt Lake City and nearby West Valley City.
Those are the most diverse communities in Utah and are among those hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic, according to Pam Perlich, the director of demographic research for the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute at the University of Utah.
Discounting any portion of the Census headcount “ … will disadvantage communities like West Valley City and Salt Lake City and also places that have large immigrant communities working in food processing, construction or agriculture throughout the state,” Perlich added.
The political impact of excluding illegals from Census headcounts would be even more drastic for states like California. If an estimated 2.2 million undocumented residents were uncounted for apportionment, that state could lose two or three seats when congressional districts are redrawn following the 2020 Census.
Trump clearly views the inclusion of illegal aliens in apportionment counts as a step toward efforts by liberals to enfranchise them.
“The radical left is trying to erase the existence of (the concept of citizenship) and conceal the number of illegal aliens in the country,” Trump said in a policy statement following his executive order. “This is all part of a broader left-wing effort to erode the rights of American citizens and I will not stand for it.”
But the president’s order has only drawn support from far right groups so far.
“The president is absolutely right to attempt to create equity for all states and protect the rights of all legal residents,” according to Rick Manning, the president of Americans for Limited Government in Fairfax, VA. “The constitutional concept of one person, one vote and the basic rights of citizenship are shredded when states like California create policies that encourage residence by illegal aliens.”
Even if the mechanical issues associated with discounting illegals from the Census headcount can be resolved, however, Trump’s political opponents doubt the constitutionality of the president’s executive order and predict that federal courts will nullify it.