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Common Cause v. Trump

Common Cause et al., challenged President Trump’s attempt to exclude undocumented immigrants from the state-population totals that are produced by the 2020 Census and used for apportioning seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and votes in the Electoral College.

Last Updated: February 16, 2021
Published: July 28, 2020

Note: The Bren­nan Center is not a parti­cipant in this case.


Common Cause et al., chal­lenged Pres­id­ent Trump’s attempt to exclude undoc­u­mented immig­rants from the state-popu­la­tion totals that are produced by the 2020 Census and used for appor­tion­ing seats in the U.S. House of Repres­ent­at­ives and votes in the Elect­oral College. The plaintiffs argued that a July 21, 2020 White House memor­andum direct­ing the Commerce Secret­ary to report data on undoc­u­mented immig­rants to Pres­id­ent Trump viol­ates the U.S. Consti­tu­tion, the federal Census Act, and other federal law. 

Case Back­ground

Common Cause, Part­ner­ship for the Advance­ment of New Amer­ic­ans, the cities of Atlanta, Geor­gia and Pater­son, New Jersey, and a group of indi­vidu­als from New York and Flor­ida sued Pres­id­ent Donald Trump, Secret­ary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and House Clerk Cheryl L. John­son, argued that the exclu­sion of undoc­u­mented immig­rants from the 2020 Census state-popu­la­tion totals used for appor­tion­ing congres­sional seats and Elect­oral College votes is uncon­sti­tu­tional and other­wise illegal.

The plaintiffs conten­ded that the Pres­id­ent’s July 21, 2020 memor­andum on exclud­ing undoc­u­mented immig­rants from the state-popu­la­tion totals used to calcu­late the state appor­tion­ments viol­ates consti­tu­tional and stat­utory require­ments the Pres­id­ent include all persons in the congres­sional appor­tion­ment base, irre­spect­ive of citizen­ship or immig­ra­tion status. The plaintiffs also conten­ded that the memor­andum viol­ates the Four­teenth Amend­ment’s Equal Protec­tion Clause because the memor­andum is “motiv­ated by inten­tional invi­di­ous discrim­in­a­tion on the basis of race, ethni­city, and/or national origin.”

The plaintiffs asked the court to declare that the exclu­sion of undoc­u­mented immig­rants from congres­sional appor­tion­ment viol­ates the Consti­tu­tion and federal law. The plaintiffs also asked the court to bar the Commerce Depart­ment and the Census Bureau from trans­mit­ting any data regard­ing citizen­ship or immig­ra­tion status to the Pres­id­ent for appor­tion­ment purposes and to order the Pres­id­ent to include all resid­ents of the states, includ­ing  undoc­u­mented immig­rants, when he calcu­lates the appor­tion­ments.

On Novem­ber 25, 2020, the court gran­ted the federal govern­ment’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit. 

Key Docu­ments