ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — President Donald Trump’s executive order last week excluding undocumented immigrants from census data could lead to an undercount in New Mexico, members of the state’s congressional delegation said.
But the White House said states should not be rewarded for welcoming immigrants who are here illegally. The order is already being challenged in court.
“This executive order was crafted to stoke more fear in immigrant communities and discourage families from participating in the census,” U.S. Sen. Tom Udall said in a statement to the Journal.
Rosalinda Dorado, a community organizer with the immigrant advocacy group El CENTRO de Igualdad y Derechos, voiced similar concerns.
“He is yet again trying to instill fear and suppress the voices of immigrant communities, while threatening the well-being of our entire community,” she said.
During a visit to New Mexico last year, U.S. Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham said immigrants shouldn’t fear filling out census forms. He said the Census Bureau is an independent organization that conducts itself in an apolitical manner and protects private information it collects.
A spokesperson from the Census Bureau referred all questions about the order to the White House.
“Giving congressional representation and political influence to illegal aliens – people who have blatantly disregarded our laws – would be a perversion of our democratic principles,” a White House release about the order said.
The census not only determines the number of representatives a state sends to Congress, but also the amount of federal funding states receive for hospitals, schools, roads, infrastructure and water systems.
Dorado and U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján’s office said the state would lose $780 million if just 1% of the population chooses not to participate in the census. Luján’s office said about half of New Mexicans have not responded to the census.
“Determining the most accurate count possible is critical to ensure we receive our fair share of federal funding for community essentials, like our roads and schools,” U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small said.
Luján said the U.S. Constitution is clear, that all people residing in a state are supposed to be counted, including those living in the U.S. illegally.
“Everyone deserves to be counted and represented, but the president is once again trying to take unconstitutional action to discriminate against our immigrant communities,” U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M. said in a statement to the Journal.
“The president needs to read the Constitution,” U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., added. “I do not know why it is so hard for this administration to follow the highest law of the land.”
But the White House insists the order is constitutional.
“The Constitution does not specifically define which persons must be included for the purposes of apportionment and requires only that representatives be apportioned according to what has long been understood to mean the ‘inhabitants’ of each State,” the White House statement said.
New Mexico Republican Party Chairman Steve Pearce said he supports the executive order.
“It’s important to make sure we have an accurate count of Americans, a count that truly shows our representation,” he said.