In his first day in office, President Biden took executive action to reverse the Trump administration’s unlawful policy of excluding undocumented immigrants from the 2020 Census apportionment count. His action restores America’s commitment to equal representation and honors the U.S. Constitution’s clear mandate to count all people residing in the United States, regardless of immigration status.
The executive order reestablishes that the federal government must count, “the total number of persons” residing in each state, “without regard for immigration status,” for the decennial reapportionment of the U.S. House of Representatives—as the Fourteenth Amendment, federal law, and over two centuries of precedent require.
In a clear rebuke of former President Trump’s policies, Biden also revoked the July 21, 2020 presidential memorandum, which sought to exclude undocumented immigrants from the 2020 Census population counts produced for reapportionment.
He also rescinded Trump’s efforts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census and to use the census to collect information about citizenship status more broadly. Since their inception, these efforts had been challenged in court by states and civil rights organizations, including Campaign Legal Center (CLC).
Biden’s swift actions are vitally important for fostering inclusivity in our representational democracy. The census determines how government representation will be apportioned in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Electoral College for the next decade.
Recent studies indicate that California, New York, and Texas would have each lost a congressional seat under Trump’s unlawful plan to exclude undocumented immigrants from the count. Moreover, because a state’s Electoral College votes are determined in part by its seats in the House, this change could have impacted the outcome of future presidential elections.
It would also have affected state redistricting and the allocation of hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding—both of which rely on an accurate census count.
As the executive order recognizes, revoking Trump’s actions was not only necessary to ensure an accurate census count and abide by the law; it was also necessary to uphold the principles of equal representation that lie at the heart of our democracy.
Counting every person for the purposes of apportionment recognizes the equal value and dignity of every person. It also ensures the federal government is responsive and accountable to all people in our diverse country. Biden’s actions represent an important step toward advancing those values.
The fight for a fair and accurate census is far from over, however. A federal case filed in Alabama is still seeking to force the federal government to exclude undocumented immigrants from the apportionment count.
And the Biden administration has yet to address standing directives issued by the Trump administration to generate block-level citizenship data, which state legislators could try to use for political gain during redistricting—the decennial process that is set to begin later this year.
CLC will continue its efforts to protect the integrity of this vital democratic process. As the Constitution, federal law, and centuries of precedent make clear: everyone must be counted because everyone counts.