Santa Clara County joins undocumented immigrant census count lawsuit

 (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Santa Clara County has joined the legal effort to challenge the Trump administration's move to exclude undocumented immigrants from this year's census count.

The county led a coalition of local governments by filing a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court this month challenging a July memorandum issued by the Trump administration.

The memorandum would remove the count of undocumented immigrants from the census, effectively denying congressional seats and funding from states with large populations of undocumented residents.

"For years, the county of Santa Clara has fought against the Trump administration's numerous attempts to undermine an accurate census count," said County Counsel James Williams. "The Constitution is abundantly clear: Every person residing in the United States during the census, regardless of legal status, must be counted."

Williams called the Trump memorandum an attempt to sabotage the census.

This year's census already ended earlier than originally planned, which many said would cause the Census Bureau to overlook minority communities.

Santa Clara County filed an amicus brief on behalf of 20 local governments represented in the case. Amicus briefs are legal documents filed in court cases by non-litigants who wish to share information or arguments with the court. Other entities represented in the brief include the cities of Santa Cruz, Santa Monica and Alameda, Sacramento County, Alameda County and several counties across Illinois and Texas.

The brief said the memorandum would affect entire communities, not just undocumented individuals, and deprive them of full and equitable representation.

California is home to approximately 2.2 million undocumented residents and stands to lose one or more congressional seats if these residents are excluded, the brief states.

Since the country's founding, every census has counted "all persons residing in a state" when allocating congressional representation, it says. "Undocumented residents are valued members of our local community," said Santa Clara County Board President Cindy Chavez. "Despite being ineligible for federal relief during the pandemic, undocumented workers are overrepresented among essential workers on the frontlines in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic."

The county filed another brief earlier this year to support the National Urban League's lawsuit to challenge the Trump administration's census deadline change.

"The federal government mandates that we serve all our residents," Supervisor Dave Cortese said. "Leaving out a significant portion of our population means the county will not get a fair return on the tax dollars that we send to Washington."

Amicus briefs such as these play an important role in legal cases, said San Jose State University Political Science Professor Garrick Percival.

"The court will read this and get a sense of what different arguments are out there around the case," he said.

Percival noted that for the past four years the county has been active in filing amicus briefs and lawsuits against the Trump administration, particularly in an effort to change the federal government's immigration policies.

"At the end of the day, Supreme Court cases have a real impact on daily lives and the kinds of services people receive from the federal and state government and the county," Percival said. "Services from policing to social services, from welfare to county health, it's all tied in no small measure to federal funds."

Contact Madelyn Reese at and follow her on Twitter @MadelynGReese.