When President Trump signed a memorandum excluding “illegal aliens” from the 2020 Census count on Tuesday, it potentially excluded an estimated 115,000 people from being counted in the Rio Grande Valley.
In the memo, Trump argues the Constitution, despite stating that all “persons in each state,” be counted in the census, is not specific in its definition of who should be included.
“ … That requirement has never been understood to include in the apportionment base every individual physically present within a State’s boundaries at the time of the census. Instead, the term ‘persons in each State’ has been interpreted to mean that only the ‘inhabitants’ of each State should be included,” the memo reads in part.
Trump’s memo drew condemnation from several pro-immigrant and pro-civil rights groups, who underscored that the president’s actions were unconstitutional.
Locally, prior to the kickoff of the 2020 Census, and before the Trump administration announced it would try to include a citizenship question in the count, there was a concerted effort by local, state and national entities pushing to educate the Valley population of the count’s importance especially for underserved communities.
Those who opposed the citizenship question argued that it would discourage non-citizens and people who belong to large immigrant communities in several states from participating in the census — threatening the accuracy of the count.
An inaccurate count could result in the loss of not only millions in federal funds for these communities, but also funding for federal highways, early childhood education and children’s health insurance, to name a few.
But also without an accurate count, state representation could continue to remain disproportionate because the census count determines the allocation of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives — non-citizens are included in that count.
Ultimately after multiple lawsuits were filed trying to stop the question’s admission into the 2020 Census form, the question was blocked from being added to the form — after it was shot down by several district courts for being unconstitutional.
Nationally the memo could impact an estimated more than 10.5 million people, categorized as “unauthorized population, according to data from the Pew Research Center.
While in Texas, there are an estimated nearly 1.6 million people categorized as “unauthorized population” who would not be counted, according to the data.
For the Valley, which includes Edinburg, McAllen, Mission, Brownsville and Harlingen, based on the 2016 Census, there are an estimated 115,000 people categorized as “unauthorized population,” according to the Pew data.
La Unión del Pueblo Entero, based in San Juan was part of litigation, along with several other parties, that was ultimately successful in blocking the administration’s attempt to implement the question in the census, which is currently underway.
Abraham Diaz, a member of LUPE and advocate for an accurate 2020 Census count, called the memo the latest discriminatory tactic the president has used to marginalize immigrant families, and the Latino community.
The memo Diaz said would not only affect people in the Valley but people across the state.
Diaz, who underscored the funding that comes to essential services like hospitals, early education and political representation as a result of the census count, encouraged anyone who has yet to fill out the nine-question 2020 Census, to do so.
“Regardless of their immigration status, whether they’re undocumented, legal permanent resident, on some sort of Visa, or a U.S. citizen, to make sure they fill out the census, and encourage others to do so as well. The answers are confidential, and (their participation in the census) bring resources here to our community,” Diaz said.
U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, was direct in his disdain for what he characterized as an “illegal, and unconstitutional, order.”
“The Constitution is clear: the Census is meant to count every person living in the United States regardless of immigration status,” the statement from Gonzalez read.
Gonzalez, as he has done consistently, characterized the president’s policies as xenophobic.
“There is no doubt that this memorandum is a distraction intended to divert Americans’ attention away from Mr. Trump’s failings as president. This order is a hallmark of his xenophobic and politically-motivated immigration policies,” Gonzalez stated.
“At the end of the day, the Census is meant to help every person living in this country. It is responsible for the allocation of billions in federal resources for schools, hospitals and critical programs people in this country depend on. This should not be a wedge issue.”