NEW YORK (Reuters) – A coalition of 35 U.S. states, cities and counties sued President Donald Trump on Friday over his directive not to count undocumented immigrants when apportioning seats for the House of Representatives, a move that critics have said is designed to help Republicans.
Trump’s plan, announced on Tuesday, could exclude several million people when determining how to apportion the 435 House seats, starting with the 2022 midterm elections. It could cause a few House seats to shift from Democratic-leaning states with large immigrant populations to Republican-leaning states.
The apportionment is also a basis for determining electoral votes for the 2024 and 2028 presidential elections.
Among the mostly Democratic-leaning plaintiffs are New York state, the most populous plaintiff, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia and San Francisco.
The White House declined to comment.
In the complaint filed in federal court in Manhattan, the plaintiffs called Trump’s plan unconstitutional because everyone in the country must be counted regardless of their legal status.
They said this has been true since slavery was abolished in the 1860s, and that the Constitution requires a count based on the “whole number of persons” in each state, as counted in each decennial U.S. census.
The census is also a basis for allocating federal funds, and the plaintiffs said Trump’s directive could hurt communities by deterring immigrants from responding to the census now under way.
In announcing the directive, Trump said “person” had “never been understood to include … every individual physically present within a state’s boundaries.”
Alleged efforts to conceal the number of undocumented immigrants, he said, were “part of a broader left-wing effort” to erode the rights of American citizens, “and I will not stand for it.”
Trump has made curbing legal and illegal immigration a focus of his presidency. He is seeking reelection and has trailed Democrat Joe Biden in some recent polls.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Additional reporting by Mica Rosenberg in New York and Alexandra Alper in Washington, D.C.; Editing by Leslie Adler)