The Texas office of the Children’s Defense Fund is outraged by the President’s recent memorandum on the Census, in which he attempts to mandate that undocumented Americans be excluded in the final census count used to apportion Congressional representation. This is a callous and mean-spirited attempt to intimidate immigrant communities from being counted. What’s more, it appears to be patently unconstitutional.
Under Section 2 of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, “representatives shall be apportioned among the several states according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each state, excluding Indians not taxed.” For centuries, both Democratic and Republican administrations have considered this beyond debate. The Constitution is crystal clear: “persons living in the United States” means “persons living in the United States,” regardless of immigration status.
One in four of those “persons” in Texas is a child living in a family with at least one immigrant parent. Most are citizens and the majority have at least one parent who is a U.S. citizen. Mandating the exclusion of undocumented individuals from the decennial census data would hurt all children—citizen children, documented children, and undocumented children—because it will discourage family members from responding to the Census.
Mr. Trump’s memorandum is an attempt to sway the results of the Census by under-counting communities of color and low-income communities, and thus to rob them of political representation and fair allocation of federal funding for their schools, health care, child care, and many other programs that help children thrive. Without an accurate count of every person, local governments cannot plan for things like the number of children in schools or how many families need health care.
We openly denounce this sort of nakedly racist politics. All Americans deserve to live free of fear that the color of their skin, their economic situation, or the date of their entry into this nation will not only be held against them, but will be dangerous to the health and well-being of their family. This memorandum, like the many other proclamations, regulations, and rules passed by this Administration, devalues and dehumanizes human life by seeking to keep Black, Indigenous, and other people of color with less access to health care, education, justice, power and wealth than white Americans.
It is, however, important to note that the President’s memorandum does not change who counts in the Census, who responds to the Census, what questions are included in the Census, or the privacy provisions that protect the individual Census responses. We want to reassure immigrant and mixed-status families in Texas that the Census does not ask any questions about immigration status, and that the Census Bureau is prohibited by law from sharing any information with ICE or any other branch of law enforcement. A complete count benefits every local community; so be counted, because every single Texan matters.