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Justices to weigh Trump census plan to exclude noncitizens

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court said Friday it will decide whether President Donald Trump can exclude people living in the U.S. illegally from the census count that is used to allocate seats in the House of Representatives.

Trump’s policy has been blocked by a lower court, and the justices were under no obligation to hear arguments. They signaled in their order Friday that they would decide the issue by early January, when Trump must report the once-a-decade census results to Congress.

A three-judge federal court panel said in holding the policy illegal that never in U.S. history have immigrants been excluded from the population count that determines how House seats, and by extension Electoral College votes, are divided among the states.

If the Senate Republicans succeed in confirming President Donald Trump’s nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, to the court quickly, she would be able to take part in arguments in the case.

With a vote on Barrett’s confirmation expected before the end of October, Friday’s meeting could be the court’s last with one seat vacant since the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg last month.

The outcome of the census case could affect the distribution of political power for the next 10 years. The census also helps determine the distribution of $1.5 trillion in federal funding annually.

In early September, a panel of three federal judges in New York said Trump’s order was unlawful because those in the country illegally qualify as people to be counted in the states they reside.

The administration told the court that the president retains “discretion to exclude illegal aliens from the apportionment based on their immigration status.”

The American Civil Liberties Union, representing a coalition of immigrant advocacy groups, said Trump’s violation of federal law is “not particularly close or complicated.”

The Supreme Court separately allowed the administration to end the actual census count this week, blocking a court order that would have kept the count going until the end of the month.