Harrisburg, Pa. -- On July 21, President Donald Trump signed a controversial memorandum to exclude undocumented immigrants from 2020 Census results.
According to the memo, counting undocumented immigrants in congressional apportionment would encourage states to violate federal laws in order to gain more representatives and funding.
"Just as we do not give political power to people who are here temporarily, we should not give political power to people who should not be here at all," President Trump said in a statement regarding the memo.
The memorandum has garnered backlash from a variety of groups including the ACLU, which has already filed a lawsuit over the decision, and various immigrants' rights organizations such as the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. The Pennsylvania commissions on Asian Pacific American, African American, Latino, Women and LGBTQ Affairs, and Governor’s 2020 Census Complete Count Commission have joined these groups in expressing their disapproval.
"The Census is the starting point of democracy. We cannot allow this scare tactic to frighten immigrant communities away from participating in the Census," said Stephanie Sun, executive director of the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs.
The memorandum brings to mind Trump's attempt to place a citizenship question on the 2020 Census, which was denied by the Supreme Court.
Various political entities including several congresspersons and Alabama's Attorney General, Steve Marshall, have been trying to have undocumented immigrants excluded from the Census for decades with no success.
Bills have been introduced but never passed, and the 1980 Supreme Court case Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) vs. Klutznick resulted in a ruling that "The Constitution requires the counting of the 'whole number of persons' for apportionment purposes, and while illegal aliens were not a component of the population at the time the Constitution was adopted, they are clearly 'persons.'"
While the Supreme Court precedents make it seem unlikely that the memorandum will stick, some officials, like Luz Colon, executive director of the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Latino Affairs, are concerned that the President's tampering may destroy trust in the census process:
"Making a change in the middle of the process will impact the response and will deteriorate trust and cause panic in communities all around the nation, including many U.S. citizens and U.S.A. born children. Also, it will put at risk those leaders and organizations that have worked hard and asked people to trust the process, hurting the work we have done to have a complete count."
Norman Bristol Colón, executive director of the Governor’s 2020 Census Complete Count Commission, added that the state of Pennsylvania intends to count everyone regardless of what orders come from the White House:
“The constitution of the United States requires a complete count of all residents in our nation. In Pennsylvania, our tradition is to be in full compliance with the constitution and reject any action suggesting otherwise. The divisive language from Washington should not be embraced when above all the census is one of the most fundamental civic duties in our American society. We will continue to do our job in full compliance with the constitution of counting every Pennsylvania resident regardless if they have been here for generations or they just moved to our state in 2020.”