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Immigration Groups Sue Trump Admin over Citizenship Data Collection

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If several immigrants rights groups have their way, the federal government will not be allowed to implement a July executive order from President Donald Trump aimed at determining the numbers of citizens and noncitizens in the country.

Trump issued the order in July after the demise of his efforts to have a citizenship question included as part of the 2020 Census. Although a late-June court ruling against including the question in the 2020 Census offered wiggle room for its possible eventual inclusion as a Census question, the logistics of printing and distributing Census forms precluded the Trump administration from further exploring the issue in court.

The order requires all federal agencies to give the Department of Commerce all the information they have on the citizenship status of the people they serve, including citizens and noncitizens, and the immigration status of the individuals in their databases.

“We have great knowledge in many of our agencies,” the president said at the time, according to NPR. “We will leave no stone unturned.”

Trump said efforts to block a count of noncitizens were political.

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“As shocking as it may be, far-left Democrats in our country are determined to conceal the number of illegal aliens in our midst,” he said then, according to The New York Times. “They probably know the number is far greater, much higher than anyone would have ever believed before. Maybe that’s why they fight so hard. This is part of a broader left-wing effort to erode the rights of the American citizen and is very unfair to our country.”

A lawsuit filed by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and Asian Americans Advancing Justice said the order is essentially a conspiracy to impact the redistricting process that will take place after the 2020 Census.

The order is “motivated by a racially discriminatory scheme to reduce Latino political representation and increase the overrepresentation of non-Latino Whites, thereby advantaging White voters at Latino voters’ expense,” the filing said.

“Voters will be denied their constitutionally guaranteed rights to equitable political representation based on actual population,” it said.

Should the citizenship data collection go ahead?

“Defendants’ actions should also be enjoined because they are motivated by racial animus, are discriminatory toward Latinos and non-citizens, and are the result of a partisan conspiracy intended to dilute the representation of non-citizens and Latinos,” the filing said.

The lawsuit also claims the order violates the Administrative Procedure Act.

“We know that effectively no process was followed. It was an announcement made in reaction to the president having to abandon his effort to include a citizenship question,” Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, said.

Trump’s order said that “data on the number of citizens and aliens in the country is needed to help us understand the effects of immigration on our country and to inform policymakers considering basic decisions about immigration policy.”

It also said that “the effort to undertake any fundamental reevaluation of immigration policy is hampered when we do not have the most complete data about the number of citizens and non-citizens in the country. If we are to undertake a genuine overhaul of our immigration laws and evaluate policies for encouraging the assimilation of immigrants, one of the basic informational building blocks we should know is how many non-citizens there are in the country.”

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The illegal immigrant population is variously estimated as between 16.2 million people and 29.5 million people, the order notes.

Data collected in response to the order can also be shared with states that seek it as they undergo redistricting so that they know the population of those who are citizens, the order said.

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