AG James leads coalition suing Trump administration for seeking to exclude undocumented immigrants from apportionment

The U.S. Federal Courthouse in Manhattan. (Photo via Getty Images)

A coalition of attorney generals led by New York’s Letitia James filed a lawsuit against President Donald Trump on Friday for directing the federal government to not count undocumented immigrants when diving up congressional seats. 

On Tuesday, President Trump signed a memorandum directing Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross to exclude undocumented immigrants included in the 2020 Census count from the apportionment base which helps determine the number of seats each state has in the House of Representatives. The order was yet another attempt from the Trump administration to keep undocumented immigrants from counting when congressional districts are redrawn next year.

In 2018, Ross sent a memo stating that the Department of Justice had directed him to include a citizenship question on the 2020 Census. Some states and civil liberties groups criticized the move as trying to scare immigrants from participating in the census aiding Republicans to gain seats in Congress. 

Trump eventually backed down from adding the citizenship question to the census and instead issues an executive order directing federal agencies and departments to provide documents and data to the Commerce Department in order to determine the number of citizens and non-citizens in the country. 

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. Court for the Southern District of New York, seeks to stop the Trump administration from “politicizing the census and basic constitutional commands,” a statement from the James’ said. The lawsuit also aims to ensure that the federal government counts the “whole number of persons” living in the country for apportionment, ” as the Constitution requires. 

“President Trump’s proclamation is the latest in a long list of anti-immigrant actions and statements he has made since the beginning of his first campaign. It’s another election-year tactic to fire up his base by dehumanizing immigrants and using them as scapegoats for his failures as a leader,” wrote James in a statement. “No one ceases to be a person because they lack documentation.” 

Director of the New York City Census 2020 and executive assistant corporation counsel of the New York City Law Department Julie Menin reminds New Yorkers that the census is clear, safe and confidential. “There are no questions about immigration or citizenship. The single best way for all of us to respond to this latest threat is simply to respond to the census,” she said a statement in support of the lawsuit. 

Other states joining the lawsuit include Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.  Attorney generals are joined by the cities of Central Falls, RI; Chicago, IL; Columbus, OH; New York, NY; Philadelphia, PA; Phoenix, AZ; Pittsburgh, PA; Providence, RI; Seattle, WA; and the city and county of San Francisco. Cameron, El Paso, and Hidalgo Counties in Texas and Monterey County in California joined the lawsuit.