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Immigrant Voices

Haitian Leaders Slam Trump Census Threat To Exclude Non-Citizens From Congressional Count

By Jonathan Greig

President Donald Trump put the 2020 Census into further disarray this week when he released a memorandum on Tuesday declaring that undocumented people will not be counted in how congressional seats are doled out to each state.

The U.S. Constitution is clear that everyone living in the country, regardless of status, needs to be counted for the census and the 14th Amendment mandates that state representatives are apportioned based on the entire population count. But in Tuesday’s memorandum, Trump officials claim the term “inhabitants” is up for debate and can exclude people who are undocumented. 

Legal experts and census advocacy groups immediately called the move blatantly unconstitutional and impossible to carry out considering the Supreme Court ruled last year that questions about citizenship will not be included on the census.

Vendors gather in front of an immigration law office in Brooklyn. Photo by Garry Pierre-Pierre

The ACLU has already released a statement threatening to sue the federal government again over the memorandum.

“The Constitution requires that everyone in the U.S. be counted in the census. President Trump can’t pick and choose. He tried to add a citizenship question to the census and lost in the Supreme Court,” said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project and the lawyer who helped win the citizenship question case last year. 

“His latest attempt to weaponize the census for an attack on immigrant communities will be found unconstitutional. We’ll see him in court, and win, again.”

In states like Florida and New York, there are thousands of Haitians living under Temporary Protected Status or as undocumented immigrants, and the census response rates in neighborhoods with large Haitian populations is already lower than the national average

“It’s so disturbing and demoralizing because our communities lag behind others both locally and nationally in the updated response rates. We are deeply concerned that this news will cast fear,” said Leonie Hermantin, communications director for Sant La Haitian Neighborhood Center in Miami.

The group has been at the forefront of efforts to get more Haitians and Haitian-Americans in Florida to fill out the census before the deadline in October. But Hermantin said their work has been hampered by Trump’s failed but widely-publicized attempts to add the citizenship question last year and the coronavirus pandemic, which has made in-person census events difficult to hold.

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Jonathan Greig

Jonathan Greig

Jonathan Greig is a journalist based in New York City working as a contributing writer for CBS Interactive. He recently returned to the United States after reporting from South Africa, Jordan, and Cambodia since 2013.
Jonathan Greig
Jul. 24, 2020