AG James: If Trump Admin. Won't Defend The Census, We Will

AG James: If Trump Admin. Won’t Defend the Census, We Will

New York to Intervene as Defendant in Alabama Census Case to Ensure Everyone is Counted

NEW YORK – Attorney General Letitia James today announced that she will lead a 26-member coalition from around the country — including 15 states, the District of Columbia, three counties, six cities, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors — in opposing the State of Alabama’s attempt to advance a discriminatory agenda and tilt the power within Congress and the Electoral College by refusing to count every individual in the 2020 decennial census. While the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. Census Bureau, as well as their respective leaders, have been named as defendants in the case, the State of New York moved to intervene as a defendant in the federal case of Alabama v. U.S. Department of Commerce, in the Northern District of Alabama, to ensure the case is properly presented and that every resident in America — irrespective of citizenship status — is counted in the decennial census.

“No individual ceases to be a person because they lack documentation,” said Attorney General Letitia James. “The United States Constitution is crystal clear that every person residing in this country at the time of the decennial census — regardless of legal status — must be counted, and no matter what President Trump says, or Alabama does, that fact will never change. So we are intervening in this case and taking on the role of defendant because the values enshrined in the U.S. Constitution deserve better than a halfhearted and inadequate defense. We will continue to lead this fight because, despite the Trump Administration’s previous racist and xenophobic attempts to tip the balance of power in the nation and Alabama’s endeavor to continue down that path, we will never stop fighting to ensure every person counts.”

In May 2018, the State of Alabama and an Alabama congressman filed a lawsuit challenging the U.S. Census Bureau’s long-standing policy of including all individuals, including non-citizens in the decennial census. The census count is used to distribute billions of dollars in federal funding, as well as determine the number of Representatives each state receives in the U.S. House of Representatives, which, subsequently, determines the number of Electoral College votes each state receives in a presidential election.

Despite Alabama’s objection, Article I of the U.S. Constitution, as amended by the Fourteenth Amendment, is clear that the “actual Enumeration” of the “whole number of persons” in each state includes everyone in the country, regardless of their lawful status. As a three-judge district court noted in rejecting a similar challenge decades ago, “[t]he language of the Constitution is not ambiguous” and “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 United States Department of Justice is defending the Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Commerce in this case, recent statements by senior officials in the Trump Administration suggest that the Administration’s defense will be inadequate. On July 11, 2019, while announcing that the federal government would no longer seek to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, U.S. Attorney General William Barr suggested that the Administration would reconsider the issue at the heart of Alabama’s challenge: whether to count undocumented immigrants in the apportionment count. Additionally, the Court in the Alabama case recently noted that the defense offered by the U.S. Department of Justice has been “halfhearted” and that allowing intervention will ensure the “best arguments” are made in support of the century-old precedent.

The coalition of states, cities, and counties seeking to intervene as defendants in the lawsuit today are defending the constitutional mandate that requires the U.S. Census Bureau to count every resident of the United States, and defend the century-old Census Bureau precedent of counting “all persons” in the United States, regardless of immigration status, for the purposes of apportionment.

Removing undocumented immigrants from the census count would not only result in the loss of representation in Congress for several states with large immigrant populations, but would also reduce representation of cities and counties with large immigrant populations in state legislatures. It could also result in reductions in crucial federal funding — as over 300 programs and billions of dollars are tied, at least in part, to census population figures. It is imperative for the states, counties, and cities in the coalition to intervene and adequately defend the current policy that includes undocumented immigrants in the census count for all purposes.

Joining Attorney General James in filing the motion to intervene are the Attorneys General of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia. The states are joined by the cities of New York, NY; Central Falls, RI; Chicago, Il; Philadelphia, PA; Providence, RI; and Seattle, WA. Additionally, Monterey County in California, Hidalgo and Cameron Counties in Texas, and the bipartisan U.S. Conference of Mayors have joined as defendant as well.

In the New York Attorney General’s Office, this case is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Elizabeth Morgan and Ajay Saini, Senior Trial Counsel Elena Goldstein, and Chief Counsel for Federal Initiatives Matthew Colangelo.