MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- A coalition of 15 states and several major cities is opposing a lawsuit by the state of Alabama that would have the U.S. Census count only U.S. citizens and other legal residents in totals that play a key role in congressional representation and the distribution of federal funding.
New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement that the coalition will fight to ensure all people are counted in the census "despite the Trump Administration's previous racist and xenophobic attempts to tip the balance of power in the nation and Alabama's endeavor to continue down that path."
"No individual ceases to be a person because they lack documentation. The United States Constitution is crystal clear that every person residing in this country at the time of the decennial census — regardless of legal status — must be counted, and no matter what President Trump says, or Alabama does, that fact will never change," James said.
The cities and states argued in a Monday court filing that the Constitution requires an actual enumeration of the population, which means all people regardless of their citizenship or legal status.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall and U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks of Huntsville filed the 2018 lawsuit that says counting all residents, regardless of immigration status, was not intended by the Constitution's writers and the practice unfairly shifts political power and electoral votes from "states with low numbers of illegal aliens to states with high numbers of illegal aliens."
Alabama argued in the lawsuit that "illegal aliens have not been admitted to the political community and thus are not entitled to representation in Congress or the Electoral College."
Alabama has said it could lose a congressional seat as a result of the 2020 Census.
Attorneys for the intervening states argued they too have a "significant stake in the outcome of this litigation" because it will affect their political representation in Congress and their eligibility for federal funds.
In 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court in a similar case ruled against two Texas residents who argued their votes were diluted by the practice of using the "whole population" to draw legislative district lines.
The Department of Justice is defending the Census Bureau in the lawsuit. However, the cities and states seeking to intervene in the case questioned the Trump's administration commitment to defending the practice.
U.S. District Judge David Proctor in December allowed others to intervene in the case, noting the federal government's "rather halfhearted" argument to dismiss the lawsuit. The latest motion to intervene noted that Trump Attorney General William Barr had noted the "current dispute over whether illegal aliens can be included for apportionment purposes."
The states seeking to intervene in the lawsuit are: New York, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington. The United States Conference of Mayors, the District of Columbia and nine other cities and counties, including Seattle and New York City, are also asking to join the lawsuit. The city of Atlanta also asked to intervene in a separate court filing.
This story has been corrected to say the opponents include 15 states and several major cities, not 16 states.