New Trump Memo Argues That Undocumented Immigrants Are Not ‘Persons’ Under the Constitution

Trump Immigrants persons
Photo credit ABC Briefing Video 2020

If the midterm elections taught Donald Trump anything, it was precisely that his ambitious pseudo-nationalist agenda will not succeed as long as the country is fairly represented in Congress.

With the overlap of a health care crisis, a social revolution in the streets, and his fall in the polls, the U.S. president has decided to exclude undocumented immigrants from the 2020 Census count.

On Tuesday, and through a presidential memorandum, Trump ordered the federal government “not to count undocumented immigrants” when assigning House districts, according to The New York Times.

In a move seen by many as a “political tactic” to help Republicans regain ground — even if it means violating the Constitution — the presidential order would exclude millions of people from determining how many House seats each state should have based on the census, the Times continued.

But the president’s decision reverses the late 18th-century policy that contemplated counting everyone regardless of citizenship or legal status and could change the distribution of Democratic states, giving the president’s party the upper hand.

“There used to be a time when you could proudly declare, ‘I am a citizen of the United States,'” Trump said in a written statement after signing a memorandum to the Commerce Department, which oversees the Census Bureau. “But now, the radical left is trying to erase the existence of this concept and conceal the number of illegal aliens in our country. This is all part of a broader left-wing effort to erode the rights of American citizens, and I will not stand for it.”

For Mark Joseph Stern, the presidential memo is “morally repulsive, illegal, and impossible.”

In his column for Slate, the court and legislation specialist explained how the measure adopts the logic of the notorious Three-Fifths Clause to declare that undocumented immigrants are not full “persons” under the Constitution. However, this is not only illegal but virtually impossible to achieve by the end of the year.

“Even if this scheme fails, the memo will do insidious damage to the bedrock principle that all people count,” Stern added. “Trump has formally endorsed the notion of excluding noncitizens from the redistricting process, an idea that red states are already exploring to boost the electoral power of white, rural voters at the cost of diverse urban centers.”

This claim seems to have been confirmed by the Center for Immigration Studies through a report published last year, which showed that excluding immigrants from the count could take away seats from some states and give them to others.

The study shows how immigrant participation (naturalized citizens, legal residents, and undocumented immigrants) in the 2020 Census could be responsible for a 26-seat shift in the House called a “cumulative” impact of immigration.

Thus, Ohio will have three fewer seats in 2020 than it would have had if it were not for all immigrants and their minor children in other states. Michigan and Pennsylvania will be two seats short; and Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia, and Wisconsin will each be one seat short. California will have 11 more seats in 2020 than it would otherwise have; New York and Texas will have four more seats; Florida will have three more seats; New Jersey will have two more seats, and Illinois and Massachusetts will have one more seat.

Of the 26 seats that would be lost, 24 are from the states that voted for Donald Trump in 2016.

However, the reality is that government threats against the immigrant community — from zero-tolerance policies, increased expedited deportations, and work visas’ blockades — have succeeded: immigrant community participation in the Census count has been disturbingly low.

“This is his go-to play every time that he’s feeling cornered or he’s feeling like he’s losing,” Marielena Hincapié, the executive director of the National Immigration Law Center Immigrant Justice Fund, told the Times. “He uses immigrants and immigration to divide and distract, and at the same time, he sends that chilling effect through all immigrant communities who have already been living in fear under his administration.”