Nov. 30, 2020 | NBC News
The U.S. Supreme Court seemed wary on Monday of approving President Donald Trump's plan to exclude undocumented immigrants from the census figures that are used to calculate each state's representation in Congress and share of billions of dollars from a host of federal programs.
But it was unclear after 90 minutes of oral argument exactly how the court would deal with the issue given that the Census Bureau concedes it has no idea yet how many people would be excluded or when it will have the answer. The justices appeared to be reluctant to act immediately to block the plan.
"Career experts at the Census Bureau confirmed with me that they still don't know even roughly how many illegal aliens they will be able to identify, let alone how their number and geographic concentration may affect apportionment," said Jeffrey Wall, the acting U.S. solicitor general.
Lawyers for the states opposing the plan and groups affected by it told the justices that it would shift money and political power away from states with large immigrant populations and would violate the Constitution and federal law.
The Constitution requires a census every 10 years, and the results determine how many members of Congress each state gets in the House of Representatives. The data is also used to calculate a local government's share of $1.5 trillion in funds under many federal programs.
In July, Trump issued a memo that said people who are undocumented should not be included in the final count. Under his plan, the Census Bureau would report two sets of figures to the White House — one including everyone counted and another allowing him to leave out undocumented immigrants. The president could then report the smaller number to Congress for use in reapportionment.
The president's memo said states with policies "that encourage illegal aliens to enter this country and that hobble federal efforts to enforce the immigration laws passed by the Congress should not be rewarded with greater representation in the House of Representatives."