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Circuit Court Panel Blocks Trump Administration Memo On Census Count

OAKLAND (CBS SF/AP) -- A decision from a panel of U.S. Circuit Court judges announced Thursday blocks the Trump Administration from keeping undocumented immigrants from being included in the U.S. Census headcount for the redrawing of congressional districts.

The three-judge panel sided with the State of California and several California cities, who sued back in July to stop a Trump Administration memo that instructed U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to exclude the number of immigrants from the 2020 Census apportionment count. It was the second time in two months that a panel of federal judges blocked President Donald Trump's effort to exclude people in the U.S. illegally from being counted during the process of divvying up congressional seats by state.

The decision from a panel of three district judges in California went further than last month's ruling by a panel of three federal judges in New York by saying that Trump's order in July not only was unlawful but also violated the constitution. The New York judges ignored the question of the order's constitutionality and just said it was unlawful.

"The policy which the Presidential Memorandum attempts to enact has already been rejected by the Constitution, the applicable statutes, and 230 years of history," the judges in California wrote.

The Trump administration has appealed the New York decision to the Supreme Court, and the nation's high court agreed to hear the case next month.

Other challenges to Trump's order are pending in Maryland, Massachusetts and the District of Columbia.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra released a statement praising the decision, stating that as a result, "every person who completes the census — as has been the case for centuries — will continue to count."

"A complete, accurate census count is critical for ensuring Californians are heard in Congress — and that we get the resources we need to protect the health and well-being of our communities," Becerra said.

The lawsuit asserted that the Trump Administration's memo on apportionment is unconstitutional and ignores that the framers of the U.S. Constitution required that each state's representation in Congress reflect all persons, regardless of their immigration status. An analysis by Pew Research Center showed California, Florida and Texas would end up with one less congressional seat each than if every resident were counted in the redrawing of House districts.

Undercounting California would impact other facets of American life as well, Becerra noted in his statement Thursday.

"Billions of dollars are at stake, money that California gets back from taxes paid to the federal government each year to fund programs and services that support the health and well-being of our communities," the statement said. "California cannot afford an undercount — it is critical for everyone to be counted, regardless of their immigration status, and census data is protected by law."

Last year, the Trump administration decided to move ahead with the 2020 Census without adding a citizenship question following months of debate over the issue.

The decision followed a Supreme Court ruling that the Trump administration's explanation for adding the citizenship question – purportedly to assist in the enforcement of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 – was contrived and insufficient.

Secretary Ross, who oversees the Census Bureau, has been accused of using the citizenship question to depress minority responses for political purposes.

The Trump Administration did not release a statement on the circuit court panel's decision by press time.

Read the panel's decision here.

© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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