Healey joins challenge to Trump’s census order       | Regional News

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Healey joins challenge to Trump’s census order       | Regional News


BOSTON — State Attorney General Maura Healey is joining efforts to stop President Donald Trump from removing undocumented immigrants from the official population count used to divide up seats in Congress.

Immigrants living in the U.S. without proper documentation are counted as part of the 2020 Census, just as they are every 10 years, but Trump signed a memo last week seeking to exclude them from tallies he is legally required to deliver to Congress once the count is finished.

Those tallies are then used to determine how seats in the House of Representatives are allocated.

Trump’s move has sparked several legal challenges, including a lawsuit filed Friday in U.S. District Court in New York asking a judge to block the proposal.

“The Trump administration, fueled by its animus toward undocumented immigrants, is attempting to erase their existence in our census data, shift representation in Congress away from states with large immigrant populations, and bypass centuries of historic precedent,” said Healey, who signed onto the lawsuit, in a statement.

Another lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and other immigrant rights groups, cites the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision in 1857 ruling that Black people could not be U.S. citizens. That ruling was later overturned by the 13th and 14th amendments prohibiting slavery and guaranteeing citizens due process and equal protection of the laws.

“Government action denying the personhood of people living in the United States echoes the darkest chapters of American constitutional history,” the complaint reads.

A White House memo argues that allowing states to count undocumented immigrants creates “perverse” incentives.

“States adopting 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,” it stated.

In a separate statement, President Trump decried efforts by the “radical left … to conceal the number of illegal aliens in our country.”

“This is all part of a broader left-wing effort to erode the rights of American citizens, and I will not stand for it,” he said.

Immigrant advocates dismissed the move as an election-year maneuver meant to fire up Trump’s political base.

Eva Millona, president of the Massachusetts Immigrant & Refuge Advocacy Coalition, called it an “unconstitutional abuse of power” and predicted it will be overturned in court.

“It not only seeks to misuse the census for partisan purposes – to skew apportionment to benefit majority-white, more conservative states – but also to intimidate undocumented and mixed-status households, to discourage them from participating in the census,” she said.

The Constitution requires a census of the country every 10 years. It also asks questions about race, housing, marital status and other topics.

Millona, who chairs the state’s Complete Count Committee, said excluding the 250,000 undocumented immigrants who live here could have political and economic consequences.

“We encourage everyone in Massachusetts, native-born or foreign-born, to ignore this partisan political stunt and respond to the census, if you haven’t already,” she said.

For Massachusetts and other states, there’s a lot more at stake than an accurate head count.

The census determines how billions of dollars in federal money are distributed. In fiscal year 2017, Massachusetts received more than $38.2 billion connected to census data, according to federal figures. The money went to everything from transportation, health care and special education to school breakfast programs.

The census also determines how many seats in Congress each state gets. Massachusetts has nine representatives, which could increase or decrease depending on the count.

The state lost one congressional seat after the 2010 count when its population — officially 6,547,629 — didn’t grow as fast as the national average.

It’s not clear what the impact on the Bay State would be if undocumented immigrants aren’t counted.

California, Florida, New York and Texas are likely to end up with one less seat in the House, according to new estimates from the Pew Research Center.

Meanwhile, Alabama, Minnesota and Ohio could each gain another seat if illegal immigrants aren’t counted, the Pew report said.

Last year, the Supreme Court blocked a move by the Trump administration to add a citizenship question to the census.

Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for North of Boston Media Group’s newspapers and websites. 

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