Trump’s Executive Order on Census Is Unconstitutional

Excluding undocumented immigrants from the Census rejects our nation’s history

July 21, 2020

Earlier today, the Trump administration announced it would order the exclusion of undocumented immigrants from the 2020 Census. Their stated intent is to uphold the nation’s “democratic principles” and ensure that Americans are not “proportionally underrepresented.”

It must be stated: excluding undocumented immigrants from the 2020 Census would be an unconstitutional perversion of those very same principles. Under Section 2 of the Fourteenth Amendment, “representatives shall be apportioned among the several states according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each state, excluding Indians not taxed.”

“Persons” means “persons,” and that means everyone. There are no exceptions for immigration status, no secret language here. The Constitution means what it says. The Census is designed to offer a proper accounting of all who reside in the country in order that Congressional representation as well as fiscal and other resource allocations can reflect the objective conditions and needs of each politically significant territory, whether at the state, district, or municipal levels.

Furthermore, the political distinction between American citizens and undocumented immigrants is a completely arbitrary one. Both are human beings with the same fundamental commitments to dignity, respect, and safety in the form first articulated by this nation’s democratic principles and commitment to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” The idea that both have fundamentally opposed political interests is a consequence of artificial scarcities and designations imposed upon which were imposed upon both groups through political developments.

Therefore, the task of wrestling with these dynamics and creating a better world for all within our nation’s borders is one of politics. The Census is one such tool to assist in doing that. The Trump administration’s focus on immigration status can only be understood as a cynical tactic to suppress census participation, skew census data, and distract from the more politically significant factors which contribute to the policy focus of this administration, like issues of income inequality, unemployment, and economic stagnation. Immigrants are merely this administration’s preferred scapegoat.

To adopt, as the Trump administration is doing, a defeatist stance in the face of this complexity is to adopt a reactionary anti-politics. By failing to take responsibility as the governing party in the Executive, the Trump administration is willfully leveraging harm on communities, municipalities, and states of whom immigrants and undocumented migrants are vital components.

This unconstitutional executive order will be challenged in the courts, where it will likely be defeated. However, we cannot lose sight of what this is about, nor of the fact that there are concerted efforts from organizations like Census Counts to ensure that the Census is counted as it was always intended by our nation’s founders.



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