President Donald Trump has signed an executive order barring undocumented immigrants from being included in the 2020 census count.
The statement from the White House press secretary says, "Giving congressional representation and political influence to illegal aliens — people who have blatantly disregarded our laws — would be a perversion of our democratic principles."
It goes on to state that "allowing illegal aliens to be counted for the purpose of apportionment could also create perverse incentives — such as potentially rewarding states that encourage violations of Federal immigration law — that would undermine our system of government."
The Trump administration previously has sought to use the census as a way to identify undocumented migrants. The administration said in 2018 it would include a citizenship question on the 2020 census. The Supreme Court struck down that plan on June 27, 2019.
The court called "contrived" the administration's argument that the citizenship question was essential to support the Voting Rights Act.
At the time, immigration advocates had argued the proposal would cause immigrants to refrain from participating in the census, leading to an underrepresentation of their numbers in census data.
The government's census count affects how many congressional seats each state gets as well as where hundreds of billions of dollars of federal aid is spent. It is also used to redraw state voting maps in the next round of redistricting.
Legal experts say Trump's executive order likely will be challenged in court. Current legal precedent says U.S. House districts are allocated based on total population, not legal residents.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer released a statement Tuesday in response to Trump's effort to ban undocumented immigrants from being counted in the 2020 census.
"This order isn't worth the paper it's printed on and will be struck down by the courts. Attempting to weaponize the Census for political gain is yet another racially driven attack by a president and administration that wrongly views immigrants as the enemy, when they are a vital part of our society."
The census takes place every 10 years. This year's counting process has been extended because of the coronavirus pandemic.
U.S. residents complete the census survey online or by paper questionnaire. Those who don't respond are visited by census workers who knock on doors, seeking to reach 99% of the 140 million U.S. households.
The door-knocking operation was extended from July 31 to August 14 to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. Federal law requires the Census Bureau to submit final population figures to the president by December 31.