Latest Update December 13, 2018

The Court granted our motion to intervene

The motion does not address the merits of Alabama’s legal arguments. The government’s limited defense is a troubling indication that it may not fully defend the Residence Rule on the merits.

The State of Alabama and Congressman Mo Brooks (R-AL) recently brought a lawsuit against the Census Bureau to block its ‘Residence Rule,’ which requires the Bureau to count all residents, including undocumented immigrants, in the 2020 Census. The population of each state is used as the basis to allocate more than $675 billion annually in federal funding, as well as political representation in the House of Representatives and Electoral College. In essence, Alabama seeks a determination that undocumented immigrants are not “persons” for the purpose of the United States Census. We’re intervening on behalf of localities to stop them.

The Constitution explicitly requires that the decennial Census count “all persons,” regardless of immigration status. In accord, the United States historically has counted everyone–citizens, immigrants present with lawful status, and immigrants present without lawful status. The Trump Administration’s hostility towards immigrants, including its March 2018 announcement that the 2020 decennial Census will include a citizenship question, raises concerns that the Justice Department will fail to fully defend this important constitutional principle. Indeed, in its initial filing, after months of delay, the Justice Department made no effort to defend the Residence Rule on the merits.

Along with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the County of Santa Clara, and on behalf of a coalition of local jurisdictions, we moved to intervene in this case to defend the Constitutionally required practice of counting everyone. We filed the motion in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama on behalf of the County of Santa Clara, CA, King County, WA, and San José, CA. Each jurisdiction is home to a collection of vibrant immigrant communities, including many undocumented community members. As a result, Alabama’s desired change to the Census count will cause these local governments to lose federal funding for various services including vital public health and safety services.

The Court granted our motion to intervene on December 13, 2018. The decision explained that the city and counties in our coalition have a “personal stake” in the litigation that justifies being permitted to intervene. In particular, the decision relied on our argument that victory by the State of Alabama in the case could reduce the amount of Census-based funding the city and counties receive and could hamper their ability to maintain accurate internal political boundaries (which are based on the Census count).

May 21, 2018

The State of Alabama and Rep. Brooks filed suit.

July 17, 2018

Our coalition filed a motion to intervene to defend the Constitutional principle that all persons must be counted in the Census.

Alabama opposed our motion and the Justice Department took no position. Along with the motion, we filed a proposed answer to Alabama’s complaint.

November 13, 2018

The government filed a motion to dismiss, arguing only that the plaintiffs lacked standing.

The motion does not address the merits of Alabama’s legal arguments. The government’s limited defense is a troubling indication that it may not fully defend the Residence Rule on the merits.

Robin Thurston

Senior Counsel

Challenging Executive Branch illegality.

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John Lewis

Counsel

Litigating challenges to unlawful executive branch activity regarding immigration, civil rights, health care, education, veterans’ affairs, and more.

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Ben Seel

Counsel & Legal Analyst

Focusing on justice, national security, immigration, and health care issues.

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