EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — El Paso County on Friday joined a lawsuit by a coalition of public entities trying to stop President Trump from excluding unauthorized migrants from congressional apportionment.
Trump on Tuesday expressed through a memo his intent of excluding that group from apportionment, according to the coalition.
The move could cost communities like El Paso, which has a substantial immigrant population, political representation and is unconstitutional, county officials said. A copy of the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York can be seen below.
“The Constitution is abundantly clear: For purposes of apportioning members of the House of Representatives among the states, every person residing in the U.S. during the census, regardless of legal status, must be counted,” the statement said.
The coalition of states, cities, and counties is led by New York Attorney General Letitia James. Defendants include President Trump, the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Census Bureau, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and Census Director Steven Dillingham. Plaintiffs include the State of New Mexico, Cameron, Hidalgo and El Paso counties along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The plaintiffs say they’re trying to stop the president from politicizing the census and “violating basic constitutional commands.” They say the law requires counting everyone physically living in the country for purposes of determining congressional representation.
“Obviously, it’s going to affect us tremendously. We will have less representation in Congress if our numbers are less than they should be,” El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego said.
He also expressed concern that the publicity surrounding the President’s move might discourage migrants from participating in the census, which is still ongoing.
“We barely got through keeping the citizenship question from the census. That was a win for us. Now we’re concerned that people think we’re back on square one,” he said. “We don’t want people tuning away from the census. We don’t want people thinking they’re going to take their (immigration status) information from the census because that is not the case.”
The county judge surmised the Administration means to deduct from congressional apportionment those who are in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody or are otherwise known to the government through an immigration procedure.
But even those groups should be counted, he said.
“Whoever lives in your community lives in your community,” Samaniego said. “Here in El Paso we work in tandem with people who pay taxes — sales taxes and other taxes — who are very much a part of our community.”
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Separately, an article this week co-authored by Randy Capps, director of research for U.S. programs at the Migration Policy Institute, said millions of American citizens could be mistakenly purged from apportionment if the Trump administration goes through with its plan.
The reason? There’s no “foolproof method” of accurately separating undocumented immigrants from legal permanent residents or even U.S. citizens.
Also, the president’s plan to match individuals responding to the census to existing data from various federal agencies may be hindered by incomplete information, the article states.
The groups most likely to be affected by the plan would be those who live in densely populated urban areas, those who live in rural areas for only part of the year due to work, and younger people who move back and forth to home during their college years, the Migration Policy Institute article states.
“The process of matching the decennial census to administrative date is too error-prone to rely on for an important constitutional responsibility such as reapportionment,” the authors said.