A group of judges has declared illegal a directive by United States President Donald Trump to exclude people who are in the country illegally from representation in the allocation of seats in Congress.
The three-judge panel’s decision, released this Thursday, is a victory for all 38 states, cities and counties, as well as immigrant rights nonprofits, which addressed the Trump directive of July 21.
The plaintiffs, mostly New York-led Democrats, accused Trump of having a “xenophobic” aim by pushing for a directive reflecting “discriminatory animosity” towards Hispanics and other immigrant communities .
They also pointed out that the directive violated the United States Constitution’s requirement to count “the total number of people in each state” and that it could change some seats in the House of Representatives, California, Texas and with New Jersey at risk of losing representatives.
In the 86-page decision, the committee argues that federal law requires that a set of numbers be used to count the total number of people in the country for the purposes of registration and distribution. When they reside in the United States, “illegal aliens are called ‘persons in a state’, to be reckoned with,” add the judges.
“The president must act within and within the authority that Congress has granted,” the panel said. “We conclude that the president did not.”
The White House, the Commerce Department, which oversees the census, and the New York Attorney General’s Office Letitia James did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Trump’s lawyers have argued that the president has a broad test for deciding who to count, including the ruling that only “residents” with “habitual residence” in a state should be counted. They also said any damage was speculative.
The plaintiffs retorted that the application of the directive would cause irreparable harm by dissuading immigrant families from participating in the census and by reducing political power. Census data is also used to allocate billions of dollars in federal funds.
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“This is a huge victory for the franchise and the rights of immigrants,” said Dale Ho, attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). “The law is clear – everyone counts when registering.”
The panel is made up of Judges Richard Wesley and Peter Hall, both appointed by Republican President George W. Bush, and Judge Jesse Furman, appointed by Democratic President Barack Obama.