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What's At Stake For California As Supreme Court Weighs Trump's Push To Alter Census For House Seats

People gather last year at U.S. Supreme Court as the high court blocked a citizenship question from being added to the 2020 census. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
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Next month, the U.S. Supreme Court will consider the Trump Administration’s plan to exclude immigrants living in the country illegally from political representation.

Here's how NPR's Hansi Lo Wang explains the case so far:

The U.S. Supreme Court has granted the Trump administration's request to speed up the appeal of a lower court ruling that is blocking the president's attempt to exclude unauthorized immigrants from the census numbers used to reallocate seats in Congress.

The move sets up an expedited legal fight that includes a hearing before the high court on Nov. 30, a month before federal law says the latest state population counts for reapportioning the 435 seats in the House of Representatives among the states are due to the president. The timing increases the potential for Trump to try to make the unprecedented change to who is included in the numbers while he is in the White House.

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What could this mean for Southern California? The state is home to an estimated 2 million such immigrants. So the Trump Administration's push to leave those residents out — if successful — would have major implications when Congressional seats are divided. That's because those seats are allocated according to state populations.

Claremont McKenna College researcher Doug Johnson says if that happens, California would lose the most of any state:

"California will certainly lose anywhere from one to four seats. Obviously Los Angeles and Orange and San Diego counties would be the hardest hit, because that’s where the majority of the undocumented folks are."

And that projected loss of four more seats is on top of the seats the state is already expected to give up because of our slowing population growth.

Keep in mind this is all speculative, pending a determination by the Supreme Court. The U.S. Constitution calls for a national census every 10 years and federal law specifies that the president must deliver "a statement showing the whole number of persons in each State" to Congress based on that survey.

The 2020 Census ended Thursday after a months-long legal battle. A lower court had ordered the count to continue until Oct. 31 date, but a Supreme Court decision allowed the government to stop sooner.

What's at stake for Southern California in the 2020 Census? Billions of dollars in federal funding for programs like Medi-Cal, for public education, even disaster planning. Political representation in Sacramento and D.C. A census undercount could cut critical resources in L.A. County, home to the largest hard-to-count population in the nation.


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