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Should the Undocumented be Counted as Legitimate Residents in a State? Much is On the Line


The number of residents in a state determines the number of congressional representatives for each state and how much federal money it gets in some cases.

President Trump wants to use census data that would not include any illegal immigrants to help determine those things. The U.S. Supreme Court held a hearing Monday about whether Trump can or should do that. 

Some say illegal or undocumented immigrants should be counted - as they always have been - since they do actually live here.   

New York's Solicitor General Barbara Underwood argued before the justices, "The government can do many things to induce undocumented immigrants to leave, but it cannot declare them to be gone when in fact they are here and likely to remain."

U.S. Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall argued that's just not logical.

If You're Sneaking In or Getting Tossed Out Can You be a 'Resident?'

He stated, "Treating someone apprehended on the border on March 31st or scheduled to be removed on April 2nd as a 'usual' or 'settled' resident of the United States on April 1st flies in the face of this Court's cases, common sense, and any sound theory of political representation."

Political representation?  Wall's opponents countered that the census properly representing everyone in a state is what this case is all about. 

"The difference of a few thousand people in a state can mean the difference between gaining or losing a seat," said the ACLU's Dale Ho, representing undocumented plaintiffs.

Should the Federal Gov't Represent You If You're Violating Federal Law Being Here?

Underwood added, "People who live in a state without lawful immigration status still live there. They are not invisible. And like other residents, voting and non-voting, their presence requires attention from the government and the need for representatives to give that attention."

Wall countered, "There's nothing usual or settled about your residence if your presence is violating federal law and the sovereign hasn't agreed to let you stay."

But Ho argued for these people's worth, explaining, "Undocumented immigrants contribute one trillion dollars in GDP, 20 billion in federal taxes, 80 percent are essential workers, one in four are homeowners and pay property taxes."

Argues the Law Commands It

Justice Samuel Alito asked, "Is it your position that every single person, every single alien who is in the United States on Census Day must be counted?"

Ho and Underwood not only appeared to argue that, but Underwood insisted settled law commands it: "The Constitution and the laws require the seats of the House be apportioned according to the number of persons in each state. The president's new policy of refusing to count people who are not in a lawful immigration status is flatly inconsistent with that command."

And as Ho put it, "In 1929, Congress mandated apportionment on total population, the plain meaning of which does not permit exclusions for immigration status. While the president may have some discretion in borderline cases, he does not have authority to erase millions of state residents from the apportionment based solely on unlawful immigration status."

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