Jus­tices take up Trump cen­sus pol­icy to ex­clude nonci­t­i­zens

Baltimore Sun - - OBITUARIES - By Mark Sher­man and Jes­sica Gresko

WASH­ING­TON — The Supreme Court agreed Fri­day to take up Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s pol­icy, blocked by a lower court, to ex­clude peo­ple liv­ing in the U.S. il­le­gally from the cen­sus count that will be used to al­lo­cate seats in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

Never in U.S. his­tory have im­mi­grants been ex­cluded from the pop­u­la­tion count that de­ter­mines how House seats — and by ex­ten­sion Elec­toral Col­lege votes — are di­vided among the states, a three-judge fed­eral court said in Septem­ber when it held Trump’s pol­icy il­le­gal.

The jus­tices put the case on a fast track, set­ting ar­gu­ments for Nov. 30. A de­ci­sion is ex­pected by the end of the year or early in Jan­uary, when Trump has to re­port cen­sus num­bers to the House.

Trump’s high court nom­i­nee, Amy Coney Bar­rett, could take part in the case if, as seems likely, she is con­firmed by then.

Last year, the court by a 5-4 vote barred Trump from adding a cen­sus ques­tion ask­ing peo­ple about their cit­i­zen­ship. Jus­tice Ruth Bader Gins­burg, who died last month, was part of that ma­jor­ity. Bar­rett would take Gins­burg’s seat.

Trump left it to Com­merce Sec­re­tary Wil­bur Ross, who over­sees the U.S. Cen­sus

Bureau, to tally how many im­mi­grants are not liv­ing le­gally in each state.

The out­come of the cen­sus case could af­fect the dis­tri­bu­tion of po­lit­i­cal power for the next 10 years. The cen­sus also helps de­ter­mine the dis­tri­bu­tion of $1.5 tril­lion in fed­eral fund­ing an­nu­ally.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion told the court that the pres­i­dent re­tains “dis­cre­tion to ex­clude il­le­gal aliens from the ap­por­tion­ment based on their im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus.”

The Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union, rep­re­sent­ing a coali­tion of im­mi­grant ad­vo­cacy groups, said Trump’s vi­o­la­tion of

fed­eral law is “not par­tic­u­larly close or com­pli­cated.”

The Supreme Court separately al­lowed the ad­min­is­tra­tion to end the ac­tual cen­sus count this week, block­ing a court or­der that would have kept the count go­ing un­til the end of the month.

The court did not take ac­tion on two other ad­min­is­tra­tion ap­peals of con­tro­ver­sial poli­cies on asy­lum-seek­ers and the bor­der wall that also were ruled il­le­gal by lower courts.

Since early last year, the ad­min­is­tra­tion has made asy­lum-seek­ers wait in Mex­ico for U.S. court hear­ings, which has forced tens of thou­sands of peo­ple to re­turn to Mex­ico.

Known in­for­mally as “Re­main in Mex­ico,” the pol­icy be­came a key pil­lar of the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s re­sponse to a surge of asy­lum-seek­ing fam­i­lies from Cen­tral Amer­ica at the south­ern bor­der.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion also is ap­peal­ing a rul­ing that the ad­min­is­tra­tion can’t spend more than Congress au­tho­rized for bor­der se­cu­rity.

Af­ter Congress re­fused to give Trump all the money he wanted for the wall, he de­clared a na­tional emer­gency at the bor­der and De­fense Depart­ment of­fi­cials trans­ferred bil­lions of dol­lars to the pro­ject.

Lower courts sided with states and en­vi­ron­men­tal groups that chal­lenged the trans­fer as a vi­o­la­tion of the Con­sti­tu­tion’s pro­vi­sion giv­ing Congress the power to de­ter­mine spend­ing. A sep­a­rate suit from mem­bers of Congress also is mak­ing its way to the court.

The jus­tices blocked the court rul­ings in both the asy­lum-seek­ers and bor­der wall cases, leav­ing the poli­cies in ef­fect. Ar­gu­ments wouldn’t heard be­fore next year and the is­sues would have much less sig­nif­i­cance if Joe Bi­den were to be­come pres­i­dent. He could re­scind Trump’s pol­icy forc­ing asy­lum-seek­ers to wait in Mex­ico, for ex­am­ple.

AN­DREW HARNIK/AP

Ar­gu­ments be­fore the high court over a Trump pol­icy on the cen­sus are set for Nov. 30.

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