President Trump signed an executive order Tuesday to exclude illegal immigrants from being counted when congressional voting districts are redrawn next year.
"I have accordingly determined that respect for the law and protection of the integrity of the democratic process warrant the exclusion of illegal aliens from the apportionment base, to the extent feasible and to the maximum extent of the President's discretion under the law," the executive order reads.
Redistricting, the process of drawing electoral district boundaries based on the changes in the population, is scheduled for 2021, after the 2020 U.S. Census results are in.
The census counts are then used to determine the allocation of seats in the House of Representatives, the number of electors in the Electoral College, and the billions of dollars in federal funding.
The president's order says the Constitution "does not specifically define which persons must be included in the apportionment base."
"Although the Constitution requires the 'persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed,' to be enumerated in the census, that requirement has never been understood to include in the apportionment base every individual physically present within a State's boundaries at the time of the census," the order says.
Despite Trump's new mandate, there are those who disagree with the president's interpretation of "the whole number of persons" in each district as it relates to the U.S. Census.
"The legal problem is that the 14th Amendment says that representatives shall be apportioned among the several states according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons," said Joshua Geltzer, a constitutional law expert and professor at Georgetown Law. "That means house seats are divvied up based on everyone present in the 50 states not just based on those lawfully present."
Senior counsel for the Brennan Center's Democracy Program Michael Li questioned how the federal government would determine whether someone was legal.
"The Constitution requires counting everyone — children, immigrants, everyone — it doesn't have exclusions based on legal status," Li stated.