Trump administration attorneys were in courts on both coasts Tuesday, fighting over when the 2020 census would end and how the data would be used for deciding how many congressional seats each state gets.
In the nation’s capital, Trump administration attorneys asked a panel of three judges to dismiss a challenge to a memorandum from President Donald Trump seeking to exclude people in the country illegally from being counted in apportionment, the process for deciding how many congressional seats each state gets.
In San Jose, California, Trump administration defended a decision to target ending the 2020 census on Oct. 5, even though a federal judge had cleared the way last week for the head count of every U.S. resident to continue until the end of October.
Tuesday’s virtual court arguments in the District of Columbia were part of the latest hearing over the legality of Trump’s July memorandum. Arguments already have made heard in federal cases in Maryland and New York, where a three-judge panel blocked the presidential order earlier this month, ruling it was unlawful.
The New York judges’ order prohibits Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, whose agency oversees the U.S. Census Bureau, from excluding people in the country illegally when handing in 2020 census figures used to calculate apportionment. The Trump administration has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court and asked for the judges’ order to be suspended during that process. The judges on Tuesday denied that request.
The New York judges didn’t rule on the constitutionality of the memorandum, merely saying it violated federal laws on the census and apportionment, leaving open the door for the judges in the nation’s capital to rule on other aspects of the president’s memorandum. Other lawsuits challenging the memorandum have been filed in California, Maryland and Massachusetts.
One of the aspects the judges indicated they may consider is whether the Census Bureau will have to use statistical sampling to determine how many people are in the country illegally since there is no citizenship question on the 2020 census that could help answer that. The Supreme Court has ruled that statistical sampling can’t be used for the apportionment count.
To help figure find out that number, Trump issued another memorandum last year, directing the Census Bureau to use federal and state administrative records to find out the citizenship status of every U.S. resident. The Census Bureau hasn’t yet made public how it will use those records to come up with a method for answering that question.
Under questioning from the federal judges, federal government attorney Sopan Joshi said the Census Bureau had no intention of using statistical sampling.
The Washington lawsuit was brought by a coalition of cities and public interest groups, who argued the president’s order was part of