Even though he refuses to recognize it, Donald Trump is down to his final few days as president. But that doesn’t mean he’s not going to try to do as much damage as possible to the United States before Jan. 20, 2021.
In addition to continuing to try to undermine American democracy with legally baseless lawsuits and conspiracy theories, Trump on Monday sent the acting U.S. solicitor general, the administration’s top lawyer, in front of the Supreme Court to argue that undocumented immigrants should be excluded from the 2020 census count. It didn’t go all that well.
Trump’s motive for pushing for their exclusion is so that congressional districts can be redrawn in the favor of Republicans. The 14th amendment to the Constitution states that “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.” If Trump’s move were to succeed it would be the first time since the first census was conducted in 1790 that not all people were counted.
On Monday both conservative and liberal justices seemed skeptical of the Trump administration’s position. Justice Samuel Alito said excluding all the illegal immigrants present in the United States “seems to me a monumental task.” Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall was unable to articulate exactly how Trump’s plan would go about devising a method for accurately counting the number of census respondents who are in the United State illegally. Wall couldn’t even say with any certainty whether the Census Bureau would be able to send to the president reliable figures on even a small category of undocumented immigrants – those in Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention – for exclusion.
Trump-appointed Justice Amy Coney Barrett also seemed to question the administration’s reasoning, noting, “A lot of the historical evidence and longstanding practice really cuts against your position.”
Completion of the 2020 census was delayed after the Census Bureau pulled field agents from door-to-door canvassing because of the coronavirus pandemic. Trump has demanded that the bureau finish its count and report its numbers by the legally mandated Dec. 31 deadline. But the career staff at the bureau has pushed back, indicating it will need until at least Jan. 26 to perform quality checks on its work to guarantee the accuracy of the count.
That would mean the process for reapportioning House seats and Electoral College votes among the states would take place under the watch of the newly inaugurated President Joe Biden, who has condemned Trump’s memo and said that “in America, everyone counts.”