Immigrants’ Rights Groups, ACLU Sue Trump Administration Over New Census Order

New York, NY—The American Civil Liberties Union, New York Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Texas, and Arnold & Porter filed a federal lawsuit today on behalf of immigrants’ rights groups challenging President Trump’s new order seeking to block people who are undocumented from being counted in the U.S. census.

Plaintiffs are the New York Immigration Coalition, Make the Road New York, CASA, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, ADC Research Institute, and FIEL Houston.

The action “challenges President Trump’s lawless attempt to exclude undocumented immigrants from the ‘persons’ who must be counted in the census for purposes of apportioning congressional seats to states.”

“The constitutional mandate is clear — every person counts in the census. Undocumented immigrants are people — and nothing President Trump does or says changes that fact,” said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, who successfully argued the U.S. Supreme Court case blocking the Trump administration from placing a citizenship question on the 2020 census in its attempt to intimidate immigrant communities from participating. “Trump tried once to weaponize the census against immigrant communities, and failed. He will fail again.”

The policy, the lawsuit notes, “is a discriminatory attack on immigrants and immigrant communities, and particularly immigrant communities of color. It is intended to … send the message that they do not count.”

“Trump’s outrageous memo is an attempt to erase immigrants,” said Theo Oshiro, deputy director of Make the Road New York. “Today, we are sending a clear message: All communities will be counted. We will keep organizing and fighting to ensure our communities receive the representation and resources that we deserve. We urge the court to stop this reckless memo in its tracks.”

The lawsuit notes that “every decennial census in our nation’s history has included every person who lives in the United States, regardless of citizenship or immigration status, for purposes of apportioning congressional representation. Defendant Trump’s new ‘policy’ set forth in the memorandum therefore not only violates the plain and unequivocal text of Section 2 of the Fourteenth Amendment and related Supreme Court precedent, it also departs from hundreds of years of consistent census practice.”

Mark my words — we already beat Trump's effort to suppress immigrants from the census, and we'll do it again. Sadly, it’s not a surprise that he is still trying to suppress the count and rig the census for partisan gain by cheating big, immigrant rich states like New York of federal resources and representation,” said Steve Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition. “This effort to erase undocumented immigrant New Yorkers entirely from the census is blatantly unconstitutional and illegal, and we refuse to be rendered invisible. We've fought the Trump administration at the Supreme Court and won once already, and we have no doubt that we will win again. The census count is too critical to New York's recovery from this pandemic over the next 10 years.”

“We want to make sure that President Trump can’t erase this country’s millions of hard-working immigrants and cripple the regions that have welcomed them as neighbors,” said CASA Executive Director Gustavo Torres. “The census — and our fight — is about ensuring that our communities are fully represented in this country. We won before the Supreme Court when Trump tried to add a citizenship question to the census and we will win again to ensure a complete count in 2020.”

“Trump’s memo is yet another attack on immigrants and communities of color. His administration tells us time and time again — they do not see us all as equal persons. And we will not stand for that. We are working for an America where all humans are treated with dignity and respect. This is another battle we will fight if we need to,” said Samer Khalaf, national president of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

The lawsuit cites constitutional and statutory violations. Defendants are President Trump, the Department of Commerce, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, the Census Bureau, and Census Director Steven Dillingham.

“We condemn the administration for making this unprecedented move that will ultimately hurt all communities in the U.S. We as immigrants are a vital part of our communities. We as immigrants live in the shadows because of unjust immigration laws that refuse to accept us as full citizens of this country. We as immigrants will no longer stay silent when faced with these injustices. We want to be taken into account not only on the census but at the decision-making table in Congress. We are proud to join in this lawsuit because we cannot have taxation without representation. We are human beings who are a vital part of the fabric of America and we must be treated as such,” said César Espinosa, executive director of FIEL Houston.

“Trump’s latest move to undermine the census is nothing more than a racist and anti-democratic Hail Mary. The last time we sued him and won, his administration had to admit in court repeatedly that the Constitution requires a count of all people, regardless of immigration status. Now Trump is once again demonizing immigrants in a cynical ploy to deceive the public and squeeze resources and political power from states like New York. He fell flat before and will fall even harder this time, because everyone counts, and everyone must be counted,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman.

The lawsuit, New York Immigration Coalition v. Trump, was filed in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York.