Census Gives Trump a Final Supreme Court Showdown on Immigration

President Donald Trump’s administration has one last blockbuster showdown at the Supreme Court over his divisive immigration policies, and this one goes to the heart of how U.S. political power is allocated.

In an argument set for Monday, the administration will seek the right to exclude undocumented immigrants from the census count used to divvy up congressional seats and federal funds. The move would change more than two centuries of practice in a nation that has always counted non-citizen residents, even those in the U.S. illegally.

The administration is racing to finish the count, and submit a report to Congress, before Joe Biden is inaugurated to succeed Trump on Jan. 20. Critics say Trump is trying to manipulate the numbers at the expense of Democratic-leaning areas with high immigrant populations. The push could mean fewer seats for Texas, California and possibly New York and New Jersey.

“This case is about the basic constitutional requirements for how political representation is divided in this country,” said Dale Ho, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who will argue against the Trump plan on Monday. “For 230 years, it’s been on the basis of people living in each state, and what the administration wants to do is a radical departure from that.”

The 80-minute session Monday is Trump’s biggest remaining Supreme Court argument in a presidency defined by polarizing legal battles over immigration.

Since 2018, the court has upheld Trump’s restrictions on travel from several predominantly Muslim countries, blocked his addition of a citizenship question to the census and stopped him from rescinding the DACA deferred-deportation program. The justices also let Trump force asylum applicants to wait in Mexico and cleared him to use redirected Pentagon funds to build fencing along the Mexican border.

The court has put the latest census case on a fast track, making a ruling possible by the end of the year.

By Greg Stohr for Bloomberg
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