Census counts could exclude undocumented immigrants in redistricting, affect Berkeley’s federal funding

President Donald Trump.
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President Donald Trump signed an executive order that aims to exclude undocumented immigrants from being counted in congressional redistricting after the 2020 census, which could lead to fewer funds allocated to areas with higher immigrant populations.

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President Donald Trump signed an executive order Tuesday that aims to keep undocumented immigrants from being counted in congressional redistricting after the 2020 census, a move that could also impact the apportionment of federal funds.

The president previously pushed for a question on the census asking respondents for their citizenship status, but this was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2019. Instead, the Trump administration is ordering other agencies to provide data that can be used to determine who is and is not a citizen.

Griselda Vega Martinez, census director for the ASUC external affairs vice president, alleged that the executive order runs counter to the 14th Amendment, which mandates that congressional representation be accurately divided based on the “whole number of persons” residing in each state.

“Trump’s animosity toward our country’s diversity will not change our plans to count every person living in our community,” said Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín in an email. “I am confident that lawsuits will be quickly filed against this latest unconstitutional attempt to subvert the Census and that he will lose again.”

Berkeley is already facing a severe undercount resulting from students not being in the area due to the COVID-19 pandemic, both Arreguín and Vega Martinez said. Vega Martinez added that essential services that students may take for granted, including public transportation, rely on funding derived directly from the census.

Trump’s executive order will likely exacerbate this undercount, Vega said. She added that in the often hostile political climate of the Trump administration, immigrant communities are experiencing increasing levels of distrust and disconnection with the federal government.

Reduced immigrant participation in the census could lead to fewer funds allocated to areas with higher immigrant populations, such as Berkeley. Federal census data also determines how districts will be redrawn for the Berkeley City Council.

“An accurate understanding of the number of citizens and the number of aliens in the country is central to any effort to reevaluate immigration policy,” the executive order states.

The examples of policy to discourage undocumented immigration listed in the order include cutting public benefits for unauthorized residents and enhancing the enforcement of immigration laws.

Many, including Vega Martinez, see this as yet another “attack” against immigrants in the United States. The Trump administration’s position is particularly relevant to Berkeley, which has historically taken a strong stance in protecting undocumented students.

Arreguín stressed that every student — documented or undocumented — who lived in Berkeley before the shelter in place should fill out the census.

Southside, an area of the city with a large student population, contains the two zones in the county with the lowest response rate. The city has 100 days to bring the percentage from 40% to 100%, as of press time.

“We continue to stand with our undocumented community,” Arreguín said in the email. “Our access to fair representation in Congress and millions of dollars for essential services are on the line.”

Contact Annika Rao at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @annikyr.