Latino groups intervene in Alabama census lawsuit

Latino groups intervene in Alabama census lawsuit
© Getty Images
A coalition of Latino civil rights organizations asked Thursday a judge in Alabama to include them as co-defendants in a lawsuit brought by the state against the federal government seeking to exclude undocumented immigrants from the 2020 census.
 
The groups, led by the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund (MALDEF) and Birmingham civil rights attorneys James U. Blacksher and Edward Still, said they don't trust the Trump administration to mount a defense to Alabama's lawsuit.
 
ADVERTISEMENT
“One legal outcome of the Civil War was a Constitution that abandons the previous ‘3/5 rule’ and treats all persons as full ‘persons’; that Alabama, of all states, would challenge that change a century and a half later, is simply sordid,” said Thomas Saenz, MALDEF president and general counsel. “Even more contemptible, the current administration cannot be trusted to defend against the sordid lawsuit because the president and other administration officials regularly treat immigrants, in rhetoric and in practice, as less than human.”
 
At issue are billions of dollars in potential funding for states and the allocation of several congressional seats. The would-be defendants include groups from California, Texas, Florida and Arizona, all states that could lose out on funding and seats if undocumented immigrants were not counted in the census.
 
Alabama filed the suit in May, with Rep. Mo BrooksMorris (Mo) Jackson BrooksHouse GOP returns to Washington after sobering midterm losses Trump immigration measures struggle in the courts Latino groups intervene in Alabama census lawsuit MORE (R-Ala.) as a co-plaintiff, arguing that counting undocumented immigrants would result in the state losing a seat in Congress.
 
The 14th Amendment of the Constitution mandates congressional apportionment to count "the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed," wording that MALDEF's lawyers argue includes undocumented immigrants.
 
The decennial census counts all persons in the United States, whether citizens or not, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
 
Alabama's lawsuit has added controversy to an already-fraught census, as the Commerce Department — the agency that oversees the census — added a citizenship question to the 2020 questionnaire.
 
Historically, the census has undercounted minority and underserved communities for a number of reasons, including lack of willingness to participate.
 
Opponents of the citizenship question argue that some people will be deterred from taking the census if it means answering questions related to immigration status.
 
In their memorandum to the court, the groups seeking to join the lawsuit said the citizenship question would diminish Hispanic representation, while proving a logistical challenge to the Census Bureau.
 
“Even putting aside for the moment the logistical nightmare that the Census Bureau would experience if it tried to collect immigration status information about residents, information that it has never before collected, any such attempt would likely cause higher non-response rates and a disparate undercount in Latino and other population groups with higher numbers of immigrants than the population as a whole,” reads the memorandum.