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Signs advertising the 2020 US Census in Seattle, Washington, March 23, 2020. © REUTERS/Brian Snyder
Signs advertising the 2020 US Census in Seattle, Washington, March 23, 2020. ©  REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Trump signs a memo excluding undocumented immigrants from the 2020 Census

The U.S. president signed a memo last Tuesday that excludes undocumented immigrants from the count.

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After two years of legal battles to include the citizenship question in the Census, President Donald Trump has finally succeeded in excluding undocumented immigrants from the count.

In a presidential memorandum signed Tuesday, Trump argued his measure to "better understand the constitution."

"I have accordingly determined that respect for the law and protection of the integrity of the democratic process warrant the exclusion of illegal aliens from the apportionment base, to the extent feasible and to the maximum extent of the President's discretion under the law," the order states.

According to the Washington Post, the memorandum seeks to overturn a system in place since the ten-year count began in 1790, which stipulates all persons residing in the country must be counted for congressional representation and federal funds.

The move is the continuation of an effort begun since the presidential inauguration when, between a Muslim ban and the delineation of an anti-immigrant agenda for the remainder of the term, the government decided a year later to incorporate the citizenship question into the Census.

However, the fact that it is a presidential memorandum implies that nothing is written in stone and can be disputed in the courts.

“Today’s memorandum will end up in the dustbin of history as yet another exemplar of Donald Trump’s disturbing embrace of white nationalism,” Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), said in a statement. “MALDEF will be in court to stop this latest example of blatantly unconstitutional executive action by a failed presidency.”

Dale Ho, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, said that Trump’s “latest attempt to weaponize the census for an attack on immigrant communities will be found unconstitutional. We’ll see him in court, and win, again.”

New York Attorney General Letitia James (D), who led a multistate suit against the question, also said she will challenge the memo in court.

What is the real strategy?

For anyone who has followed U.S. politics closely in recent years, it is foreseeable that a decision like this by the Trump administration will end up stalled in court.

Considering the 2020 Census is already underway, and according to government reports, 62.2% of the country has already responded, despite the country's instability between the pandemic and social unrest on the streets, the goal of excluding immigrants from the count has not been so difficult.

According to CNN, despite the efforts of community organizations and immigrant advocacy groups in the country, who have spent months outreach and convincing immigrants to participate, the reluctance has been felt.

In short, this is a zero-sum game for these communities: while the government threatens them with empty strategies, fear is unavoidable, and their absence from participation can perpetuate the shortage of infrastructure funds in their districts, as well as their representation at the political discussion tables.

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