Catholic News Agency

US bishops oppose Trump move to exclude undocumented in forming House districts

CNA Staff, Jul 22, 2020 / 04:44 pm (CNA).- The U.S. bishops on Wednesday decried President Donald Trump’s recent memo seeking to exclude undocumented persons counted in the census from being considered when determining the number of legislators each state will have in the House of Representatives.

“We urge all people to be counted and fully included in the Census. Counting the undocumented in the Census and then denying them and the states in which they reside their rightful representation in Congress is counter to the Constitution and a grave injustice. Furthermore, such a policy makes people feel invisible and not valued as human beings,” Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City and Bishop Mario Dorsonville, Auxiliary Bishop of Washington, said July 22.

The bishops are the chairmen, respectively, of the US bishops’ committees on domestic justice and on migration.

Trump announced July 21 that he was “directing the Secretary of Commerce to exclude illegal aliens from the apportionment base following the 2020 census.”

He said the decision “reflects a better understanding of the Constitution and is consistent with the principles of our representative democracy. My Administration will not support giving congressional representation to aliens who enter or remain in the country unlawfully, because doing so would create perverse incentives and undermine our system of government. Just as we do not give political power to people who are here temporarily, we should not give political power to people who should not be here at all.”

The Fourteenth Amendment states that “representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State.”

The U.S. bishops said that Trump’s action “is simply wrong and divisive.”

“We follow the lead of Pope Francis, who has noted that in the face of ‘profound and epochal changes’ that the present moment offers ‘a precious opportunity to guide and govern the processes now under way, and to build inclusive societies based on respect for human dignity, tolerance, compassion and mercy.’ We urge the President to rescind this Memorandum and instead, to undertake efforts to protect and heal our nation and all who are living in our country.”

In 2019 the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the inclusion of a citizenship question on the 2020 census under the reasons proffered by the Trump administration.

The decennial census is used in districting for elections, and helps determine the allocation of federal funding to the states.

A question about whether the respondent is a citizen has not appeared on the census questionnaire since 1950.

The AP reported that after the Supreme Court blocked the inclusion of a citizenship question, the president ordered that citizenship data be gathered from federal and state agencies’ administrative records. Few states have complied with the request.

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