Several businesses whose products are household names filed an amicus brief supporting a challenge to a recent presidential memo that directed the exclusion of undocumented immigrant Census data from being counted toward reapportionment purposes.
The 16 businesses and business organizations include jeans maker Levi Strauss & Co., ice cream producers Ben & Jerry’s Homemade, ride-sharing moguls Uber Technologies, mattress producers Casper Sleep, broadcasting giant Univision, and Lush Cosmetics.
The filing notes that each of the businesses and organizations as well as “others in the business community rely on Census data” while arguing that “the exclusion of undocumented immigrants from apportionment” will result in “less reliable” outcomes that will ultimately harm both “businesses and consumers” alike.
“Amici’s interests in this case are strong,” the filing continues. “First, amici, like many businesses, rely on Census data to make a variety of decisions, including where to put new brick-and-mortar locations, how to market their products, and how to predict which products will be successful in a given market. Businesses also have a broader interest in ensuring that the communities they serve receive needed federal support—in terms of education, infrastructure, and other support—in order to provide an environment ripe for new development and innovation. All of these things depend on the availability of accurate Census data. Exclusion of undocumented immigrants from being counted for purposes of apportionment compromises the accuracy of that data.”
Amicus briefs are holdovers from Latin which have become standard fare legalese by way of the legal tradition. The phrase amicus curiae translates to “friend of the court” but doesn’t quite mean that. An amicus brief is a way for a third party to file a document in a case that could, in theory, help the judge reach a preferred conclusion. The plural form of amicus is amici.
The filing goes on to explain why Census data is important:
Accurate Census data is important to businesses. Companies use that data to plan new locations and future projects, and they and their communities rely on federal funding allocated based on Census data. While businesses have a number of resources at their disposal to help them understand the characteristics, preferences, and geographic distribution of their customers, the Census is a particularly important business tool. The Census provides critical data that informs decision-making in both the private and public sectors. Businesses regularly use that data determine where to locate stores and facilities, find qualified workers, and market products and services. Consequently, government action that threatens the accuracy of Census data directly harms the businesses nationwide that rely on that data.
In the July 21 memo, President Donald Trump decreed it was “the policy of the United States to exclude from the apportionment base aliens who are not in a lawful immigration status” and directed Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross to “take all appropriate action, consistent with the Constitution and other applicable law, to provide information permitting the President, to the extent practicable, to exercise the President’s discretion to carry out the policy.”
A lawsuit was quickly filed by progressive government accountability nonprofit Common Cause, alleging that Trump’s memo violates the U.S. Constitution’s apportionment clauses and Equal Protections clauses as well as two federal statutes that outline congressional apportionment procedure and the U.S. Census itself.
“The Memorandum purports to break with almost 250 years of past practice by excluding undocumented immigrants when calculating the number of seats to which each State is entitled in the House of Representatives,” Common Cause alleged. “This new policy flouts the Constitution’s plain language…[and] also flies in the face of the statutory scheme governing apportionment, which requires the President to include ‘the whole number of persons in each State’ in the apportionment base.”
While the original lawsuit targeted many presumed legal defects with Trump’s efforts to hamstring Texas and California during the next congressional apportionment, Thursday’s filing by the 16 businesses is largely focused on the allegedly deleterious economic impacts that such a move would have.
“Although it is impossible to determine how innovators and entrepreneurs will use Census data in the future, one thing is clear: businesses will keep using it in important ways so long as it is accurate,” the brief concludes. “They will seek to leverage key data and determine new, profitable uses to draw from it. Ensuring the accuracy of this data is essential, and any attempt by the federal government to diminish the Census impairs the ability of businesses across the country to be effective.”
Read the full filing below:
[image via via Chip Somodevilla_Getty Images]
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