Not Even Three-Fifths of a Person

Throw the Bum Out

The latest Trump executive order attempts to weaponize the census to attack immigrants and states where large numbers of undocumented immigrants live, work, and raise their families. His order says that undocumented persons are not persons for purposes of Congressional apportionment.

The Constitution, written by men who believed it their right to own other men and women and children, originally denied the full personhood of a large part of the population of the new country. Back in 1787, the framers of the Constitution provided that representation in Congress should be apportioned according to a census that counted “free Persons,” but excluded from the count “Indians not taxed,” and counted “three fifths of all other Persons.”  The Fourteenth Amendment ended that three-fifths clause, but still excluded “Indians not taxed.” In 1940, an Attorney General’s opinion said that everyone counted, as “there were no longer any American Indians who should be classed as ‘not taxed.'”

Today Donald Trump ordered the census to go backwards. By executive order, he decreed that undocumented people do not count. They are not persons for purposes of the census or of apportionment. Not whole persons. Not three-fifths of a person. Not persons at all.

He can’t do that. As a practical matter, there is no way to count who is undocumented and subtract those people from the census or from the apportionment base for Congress. Besides that, federal courts will hold this order unconstitutional and throw it out. His executive order is not worth the paper it is written on.

In his powerful book, Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, Ibram X. Kendi writes that the United States does not have a singular racial history but rather “a dual and dueling history of racial progress and the simultaneous progression of racism,” and that Donald Trump “embod[ies] America’s history of racist progress.” This latest executive order is as deeply rooted in racism as the Muslim ban, the Africa ban, the asylum bans, and the rest of the Trumpian anti-immigration platform.

November is coming. Vote.

About Mary Turck

News Day, written by Mary Turck, analyzes, summarizes, links to, and comments on reports from news media around the world, with particular attention to immigration, education, and journalism. Fragments, also written by Mary Turck, has fiction, poetry and some creative non-fiction. Mary Turck edited TC Daily Planet, www.tcdailyplanet.net, from 2007-2014, and edited the award-winning Connection to the Americas and AMERICAS.ORG, in its pre-2008 version. She is also a recovering attorney and the author of many books for young people (and a few for adults), mostly focusing on historical and social issues.
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