The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to rule on a case examining the constitutionality of President Donald Trump’s rule that excluded undocumented immigrants from the decennial census count.
The unsigned opinion from court—backed only by the conservative majority of the court—declared it "premature" to decide the case since it's "riddled with contingencies and speculation." The six conservative justices said that because Trump’s order has not been shown to have impacted immigrant communities yet, it’s difficult to render a ruling. They added that not even the Trump administration knows “how many undocumented immigrants there are or where they live” making it difficult to determine such an impact on communities.
The case came as a result of the Trump administration asking the U.S. Department of Commerce, which is carrying out the census, to provide him two separate census numbers—one set to contain the number of citizens in each state, and the other to show the number of undocumented immigrants in each state. The second set of numbers would be subtracted from the first list to determine the number of seats each state gets in the House of Representatives, which relies on the census data.
In a statement following the opinion, New York Attorney General Letitia James—whose office led a multi-state lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Commerce, which is carrying out the census, to stop Trump's announcement from taking effect—said the census rule is "as illegal today as it was when [Trump] made this announcement."
"All today’s decision does is kick the can down the road until this lame-duck president knows whether he will receive the data he needs to violate the Constitution and the Census Act with the few weeks he has left in office," James said in a statement.
SCOTUS's delay in ruling now allows the Trump administration to proceed in applying this order, which is likely an impossible task since the U.S. Department of Commerce was forced to withdraw the citizenship question from the census form anyway.
Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall acknowledged to the Supreme Court in late November that such a rule would be tough to implement. He said to the court that even “career officials at the Census Bureau still don’t know even roughly how many illegal aliens it’ll be able to identify, let alone how their number and geographic concentration might affect apportionment,” according to NPR.
The decennial census determines how much federal aid goes to states and determines congressional lines based on the number of people living in the state. In 2010, the state received $53 billion a year, with $20 billion of that money earmarked for New York City, where nonprofits, schools, public transportation, and hospitals benefited greatly. The state is home to some 560,000 undocumented immigrants, according to numbers tracked by the city in 2018.
The census count was completed on October 15th, with Trump expected to receive the first batch of the census reports on December 31st.
Even after all those legal maneuvers—and the pandemic that upended a concerted push to get everyone counted—New York City still set a record for the most participation during this count, achieving a 61.9% response rate, compared the 58% response rate in 2010.