Skip Navigation
Court Case Tracker

New York v. Trump

New York and a coalition of 20 states, cities and localities led a challenge to 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 24, 2021
Published: July 28, 2020

Summary

New York and a coalition of 20 states, cities and localities 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. On December 18, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an opinion in the case dismissing the case on ripeness grounds. 

Case Background

The State of New York and a coalition of 20 states, cities, and localities sued President Donald Trump, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, the Department of Commerce, the Census Bureau, and Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham, arguing 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 violated constitutional and statutory requirements that 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 Fifth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause because the memorandum is “motivated by discriminatory animus toward Hispanics and immigrant communities of color.”                 

The suit further argued that the President’s decision to exclude undocumented immigrants from the apportionment base without reliable data to do so is “arbitrary and capricious” under the Administrative Procedure Act.

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 September 10, the district court granted the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment and enjoined the federal government from implementing the memorandum.

The federal government appealed that decision to the Supreme Court.

On December 18, the Court dismissed the case on ripeness grounds, holding that courts could not rule on the legality of the memorandum because of uncertainties about whether the President would be able to implement the memorandum, and, if so, how many people he would exclude. The Court vacated the lower court’s order blocking the federal government from implementing the memorandum and left a path for additional litigation if the President issued the reapportionment numbers (or clarified his plans for the apportionment).

Justice Breyer, joined by Justices Kagan and Sotomayor, filed a dissenting opinion contending that further factual certainty was not necessary before courts could rule on the memorandum’s legality.

On January 15, 2021, the district court dismissed the case in its entirety without prejudice.

Key Documents

U.S Supreme Court (Case No. 20-366)

Amicus Briefs in Support of President Donald J. Trump 

Amicus Brief in Support of New York et al.