Trump’s Unconstitutional Memo Tries to Redefine Who Counts as ‘Persons’

Contact: Tamika Turner,
[email protected], 419.913.8088

Trump’s Unconstitutional Memo Tries to Redefine Who Counts as ‘Persons’

WASHINGTON — Following President Trump’s unconstitutional memorandum banning undocumented immigrants from counting toward congressional apportionment, Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, released the following statement:

“This xenophobic action is unconstitutional. Undocumented immigrants live, work, and go to school in every state and they are part of our communities. Trump and Stephen Miller are trying to scare people who are undocumented from participating in the census so their communities miss out on the resources and political power they deserve. Trump is attempting to upend the $16 billion, half-finished census, leaving states with inaccurate numbers that will deprive communities of federal assistance to recover from the pandemic. We must protect the Constitution, the census, and our communities from this type of manipulation. The civil rights community will fight to ensure everyone regardless of immigration status knows that they should be counted and that the Census Bureau can’t share personal information with ICE or law enforcement. Trump’s latest ploy to disrupt the census will fail.” 


  • Under Section 2 of the Fourteenth Amendment of U.S. Constitution, “representatives shall be apportioned among the several states according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each state, excluding Indians not taxed.” As Republican and Democratic administrations have concluded, there is nothing unclear about, nor a hidden meaning behind, the constitutional requirement that apportionment be based on the number of persons living in the United States: “Persons” means “persons,” and that means everyone. 
  • The Constitutional Accountability Center has created this resource, which includes historical information about who has been counted in the census: ISSUE BRIEF: The Cornerstone of Our Democracy: The Census Clause and the Constitutional Obligation to Count All Persons 

    “Following more than seven months of debate, Congress adopted the Fourteenth Amendment, insisting that total population, not voter population, was the basis for our Constitution’s system of representation. ‘As the Framers of the Constitution and the Fourteenth Amendment comprehended, representatives serve all residents, not just those eligible or registered to vote.’ The Fourteenth Amendment, which was approved by the people and became a part of the Constitution in 1868, reaffirmed that our Constitution’s system of equal representation for all depends on a count of the nation’s entire population, including non-citizens. As this history shows, the purpose of the census required by the Constitution has never been to count just citizens, but rather to count ‘the whole body of the people.’” 

  • There is no citizenship or immigration status question on the 2020 Census. 
  • Federal law keeps individual data and personal responses collected by the Census Bureau confidential for 72 years. That means the Census Bureau can’t share respondents’ personal information with ICE or law enforcement, it can’t be shared with landlords, and it won’t affect any public benefits. 
  • Hundreds of civil rights organizations are standing by to make sure that law is upheld and that undocumented immigrants’ responses are protected. In March, more than 275 organizations and civic leaders from across the country signed a Census Confidentiality Pledge to monitor and use every tool necessary to enforce the integrity and confidentiality of the 2020 Census. 
  • On July 7, U.S. Senators Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), vice chair and chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee, called on Census Director Stephen Dillingham to ensure that the 2020 Census is conducted as completely and accurately as possible, free from political interference, saying:

“It is imperative for the census to count every person in the United States, where they live, and this includes communities that for various reasons have historically had low participation in decennial censuses.

“We expect that data processing will be free from political interference and that the highest standards of integrity and fairness will be upheld. We will be closely watching to ensure this is the case.”