Last Friday, the Supreme Court announced that it would hear arguments in the Trump administration's appeal on November 30th regarding its efforts to exclude undocumented immigrants from being counted in the census figures used to calculate the division of Congressional districts.
Last September, a Manhattan federal appeals court rejected the Trump administration's offer to exclude undocumented residents from this census.
As with many of Trump's malicious power play gimmicks, this exclusion is "unparalleled," an adjective we've heard far too often to change Trump's behavior. In fact, the court duly noted that throughout US history, the number of people used to determine how many seats were allocated to each state in the House of Representatives “included anyone who was at the time of the United States census was resident. whether citizens or non-citizens and whether they live here with or without legal status. "
The court factually found that Trump's move had no basis in the Constitutional language, the Black Letter Act, and stressed that “The Presidential Memorandum violates the Apportionment Act because you reside in the United States , Illegal foreigners qualify as "persons in" a "state" because of the use of those words by Congress. "
But the black letter law is not that significant to some of the current judges.
So we'll see what Supreme Court justices like Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito say. Alito, along with Thomas, went to town last summer in hysterical contradiction of the landmark decision to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in the workplace based on gender. Alito's ranting boomed on dozens of pages, citing innumerable dictionaries, arguing that the word "gender" only referred to the biologically based binary representation of man and woman and did not contain any sexual orientation or gender identity.
In this case, we'll see the gang of judges, and maybe Amy Coney Barrett, wrestle with the basic meaning of who counts as a "person".
This definition of who counts as a "person", however basic it may seem, has been a critical point of contention legally, culturally, and in social and political practices throughout our history, and in a fairly intense way during the Trump presidency.
We need to understand Trump's attempt to attack the constitutional reasons why the census is being conducted in this context.
The Black Lives Matter movement, for example, pared down to the simplest of terms, is a claim that African American people are persons and therefore deserve the same legal protection in the language of the 14th Amendment so that they cannot be discounted or devalued. treated as less than full people.
Let us recall the language of the 14th Amendment, which contains the clause:
“Also, no state may deprive a person of life, liberty or property without this being required by law. not deny anyone in their jurisdiction the same protection of the law. "
This amendment contains a humane correction to another language in the Constitution that denies African Americans full personality and therefore the same protection of the law – in addition to the right to be counted as having full personality.
Indeed, the original language of Article 1 of the Constitution, which set out the census process, did not count all residents as full persons.
Agents and direct taxes are apportioned among the various states that may be admitted to this union according to their respective numbers, determined by adding up the total number of free persons, including those who are bound to the service for a term of office of years . and without non-taxed Indians, three-fifths of all other persons. The actual enumeration will be made within three years of the first session of the United States Congress and within each subsequent ten year term in such a manner as is required by law. The number of representatives must not exceed one in every thirty thousand, but each state must have at least one representative.
(Again, it should be noted that “Individuals” clearly have citizenship status, as the previous paragraph states: “No person may be a representative who has not reached the age of 25 and is seven years old a citizen of the United States, and who should not be a resident of the state in which they are to be elected when they are elected. "Hence, we see the authors clearly and specifically referred to as" citizens "when this is intended.)
Despite the 14th amendment, many are still denied full personality.
The Equal Rights Amendment has never been ratified by Congress. And here is the statement in the ERA that this nation is trembling to confirm:
"Equality under the law cannot be denied or curtailed by the United States or any state on the basis of gender."
It seems to be saying what the 14th Amendment is already doing – unless women do not fall under the definition of "person".
In fact, women have not been granted personality, and anti-abortion groups have spoken out against the ERA precisely because they fear that if women are given full personality, women's right to control their bodies and reproductive processes will be strengthened.
The drive not to regard certain people as persons has been a hallmark of the Trump administration, of which this attempt to deny the census of undocumented residents is only part.
Many lives don't matter in the eyes, in Trump's politics.
Despite the landmark Supreme Court ruling to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in employment, Trump made it possible to discriminate against LGBTQ people in access to health care.
In his insistence on opening up the economy without properly addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, he has shown little care for the elderly and for workers he has insisted on returning to insecure jobs. Trump and many other Republicans have loudly declared that saving the economy is more important than saving lives.
He doesn't see workers as people of equal value to others, which was evident when he mocked the Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for being a waitress, as if serving in that role was kind of diminishing her, which made her less important.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Trump's inaction has shown that he attaches little value to the majority of American life.
We don't count.
His efforts to cut people down in dates to make sure they are out of Congress is just part of his ruling worldview, where most of us just don't count.
Like the military men he denounces, he sees us as "fools" and "losers".
And just as he cannot adequately represent the interests of those of us he cannot respect, he doesn't want anyone to represent us.
Tim Libretti is a professor of American literature and culture at a state university in Chicago. A longtime progressive voice, he has published numerous academic and journalistic articles on culture, class, race, gender, and politics, for which he has received awards from the Working Class Studies Association, the International Labor Communications Association, and the National Federation of Press Women and the Illinois Woman & # 39; s Press Association.