San Jose legislator urges SCOTUS to let undocumented residents be counted
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, (center) wants the Supreme Court to ensure undocumented immigrants are included in the count used to apportion congressional seats. File photo.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, is urging the Supreme Court to block President Donald Trump’s plan to exclude undocumented immigrants from the count used to apportion congressional seats. The court, which announced last week that it will review the case, is slated to hold a hearing on Nov. 30.

“The administration’s plan violates the plain text of the Constitution, which requires that all persons be counted in the census and that congressional apportionment be based on the whole number of persons in each state,” said Lofgren, the chair of the House Immigration and Citizenship Subcommittee. “I urge the Supreme Court to reject this latest power grab by the Trump Administration.”

The president signed a memorandum July 21 directing the Secretary of Commerce to omit undocumented immigrants from the apportionment base.

“(This is) more consonant with the principles of representative democracy underpinning our system of government,” it states. “Affording congressional representation, and therefore formal political influence, to states on account of the presence within their borders of aliens who have not followed the steps to secure a lawful immigration status under our laws undermines those principles.”

Lofgren argued the real intention behind the proposed policy was to draw federal resources away from communities in need and to sway future elections by skewing electoral apportionment in states with large immigrant populations.

Refusing to count any persons in the United States would effectively deny representation to diverse communities in future elections, she said, and would therefore undermine the Constitution’s guarantee of equal representation.

The Trump administration has recently tried to make other changes to the census, including a successful effort to move up the deadline and a failed attempt to add a question about citizenship.

Critics slammed these efforts as thinly-veiled attempts to dismiss or intimidate immigrants. Many feared adding a citizenship question would deter undocumented immigrants from participating, or that moving up the deadline would increase the likelihood that some hard-to-count populations would go uncounted.

Santa Clara County officials work to support and welcome the undocumented community, according to Nick Kuwada. But he said the president’s actions have repeatedly undermined their efforts. Kuwada is the manager of the county’s Office of the Census, which was created by the Board of Supervisors to combat misinformation from the White House.

“All of our work doesn’t mean anything when the federal government is leading the charge to basically say ‘you don’t matter,’” he said. “To discount people’s voices because of their status is wholly against what we stand for here in Santa Clara County.”

Orville Thomas, the government affairs director for the California Immigrant Policy Center, shared similar sentiments. Undocumented immigrants contribute to their communities, he said, and they deserve to be counted.

Undocumented immigrants in California collectively pay an estimated $3 billion each year in state and local taxes, according to recent findings from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

Thomas added that the president’s rhetoric and actions have created a sense of fear among the immigrant community.

“What we have seen over the last four years has been efforts to rally people around dehumanizing language to kind of spotlight immigrants and say these are the people you should be blaming if you are out of work or if you don’t feel your voice is heard,” he said. “…It is scary to think of because when we think of past dehumanizing efforts and getting people to form this hatred in their heart for others, it really ends up with violence at the tail-end.”

Immigration is arguably one the most divisive issues in the nation. After the president’s memorandum was released, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform convened an emergency hearing. Republican and Democratic committee members frequently clashed at the meeting.

Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-New York, decried the policy as illegal and said it disregarded the precedent set by every other president in the nation’s history.

Ranking Committee Member Rep. James Comer, R-Kentucky, firmly defended the plan and said it would ensure the sanctity of elections.

“Including illegal immigrants in the count for representation in Congress only dilutes the representation of all Americans who vote in elections and makes a mockery of our basic principle of ‘one person, one vote,’” he said. “The president’s action restores the concept of representational government… It’s a simple question of fairness.”

Most Californians have a favorable view of immigrants, according to the Public Policy Institute of California. The institute’s research found about 72 percent of California residents believe immigrants are a benefit to the state because of their hard work and job skills, compared to 23 percent who believe they are a burden.

Contact Katie King at [email protected] or follow @KatieKingCST on Twitter.

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