Biden to reverse Trump effort to subtract immigrants from census

Gregory Korte

President-elect Joe Biden will sign an executive order Wednesday revoking President Donald Trump’s effort to exclude undocumented immigrants from the U.S. Census count, advisers said.

Biden’s order, one of 15 he is expected to sign on his first half-day in office, deals a final blow to an effort by his predecessor to help Republicans win elections over the next decade.

President-elect Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden arrive at the East Front of the U.S. Capitol ahead of Biden's inauguration, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington.

The census order was one of 17 high-level presidential directives he //plans to// sign in his first day in office. It will ensure that all residents, regardless of immigration status, are included in the 10-year count that determines the size of congressional districts and how many Electoral College votes each state gets for the next decade.

Trump’s order, if successful, could have given Republicans a long advantage in elections, shifting population counts and therefore political clout from high-immigration states to low-immigration states.

Even before Biden’s action, Trump’s effort was all but certainly doomed by legal challenges and delays in collecting the data on undocumented immigrants that his administration had ordered the Census Bureau to produce in 2019. The 14th Amendment to the Constitution requires the Census Bureau to count “the whole number of persons in each state.”

But Susan Rice, Biden’s top domestic policy adviser, said his order was designed to underscore an Inauguration Day message about the “importance of immigrants to our nation’s history and our commitment to representative democracy.”

Rice told reporters that Biden’s order would ensure the Census Bureau had time to complete an accurate count for each state which also factors into formulas that distribute federal aid to state and local governments.

Biden’s order will actually revoke two Trump directives on the census, according to a transition official: His 2020 order excluding undocumented immigrants from the census, and a separate 2019 memorandum that told the Census Bureau to gather data that the executive order would rely on.

Census Bureau director Steven Dillingham resigned Monday, citing in part “late changes and directives” to the Census Bureau and “competing and divisive political campaigns” that undermined public trust in the bureau’s work.