01:19 GMT08 August 2020
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    Under US congressional apportionment rules, the number of seats a state gets in the House of Representatives (and, to some extent, its heft in the Electoral College, which picks the president) is roughly proportionate to its share of the total population of the country.

    The state of California has filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration this week to try to ensure that undocumented immigrants are counted in the 2020 Census to help determine the state’s weight in the House of Representatives in the future.

    The suit was filed after the Trump administration released a memorandum last week to exclude illegal aliens from being counted in the congressional apportionment base following the census.

    The lawsuit, led by California’s Democratic Attorney General Xavier Becerra and the mayors of major cities including Los Angeles, Long Beach and Oakland, argues that not counting illegal immigrants in the census would be unconstitutional, and that the law requires for “the whole number of persons in each State” to be tallied.

    “The Memorandum and the exclusion of undocumented immigrants from the census apportionment count will likely cause Plaintiffs to lose one or more seats in the US House of Representatives and, consequently, one or more electors in the Electoral College,” the suit suggests, pointing to the practical ramifications for California of the Trump administration’s memorandum.

    The White House argues that “the Constitution does not specifically define which persons must be included in the apportionment base,” and that only legal “inhabitants” of a state should be counted, rather than the total number of people physically present in a state at the time of the census. “Excluding these illegal aliens from the apportionment base is more consonant with the principles of representative democracy underpinning our system of Government,” the White House memo suggests.

    The Trump administration moved to challenge congressional apportionment rules after the Supreme Court rejected the White House’s attempt to add a question about citizenship to the 2020 Census to get a sense of how many illegal immigrants live in the United States (the number is thought to be between 11 million and 29 million). The Trump administration and Republicans in general have repeatedly accused the Democratic Party of deliberately encouraging illegal immigration into the United States, or of otherwise using it for the purposes of improving their electoral chances to skew state and federal elections.

    According to the Public Policy Institute of California, the state is home to over 2.4 million undocumented immigrants. The state also has the largest number of congressional districts – 53 of 435 total seats, in the US House of Representatives. All 435 seats will be up for grabs in the upcoming election in November.

    The 2020 Census deadline has been extended to October due to difficulties related to the coronavirus, with the results expected to be published in early 2021.

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