Census data delay could prompt Texas Legislature into special session for redistricting

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Push by Trump to add citizenship question & pandemic compounded situation

Census worker Marisela Gonzales adjusts a sign at a U.S. Census walk-up counting sight set up for Hunt County in Greenville, Texas, Friday, July 31, 2020. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — The COVID-19 crisis and former President Donald Trump’s efforts to exclude undocumented immigrants from the 2020 Census count will likely delay the release of census data until after the Texas Legislature adjourns, the vice-chair of the Texas Senate Redistricting Committee told Border Report on Friday.

Texas State Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, a Democrat from McAllen who last week was tapped to help lead this committee in charge of redrawing the state’s congressional and legislative districts based on census population data, said they don’t expect to receive a final Census 2020 report until June. That would be well after the 87th Texas Legislature regular session ends on May 31.

The Texas Legislature, which is only in session only every other year, just convened on Jan. 12 in Austin.

Depending upon final census data, Texas could gain as many as three new congressional seats.

A delay in census findings also could delay increased federal funding — which is based on population figures — especially to burgeoning border areas of the state, he said.

Texas Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, is vice chairman of the Texas Senate Redistricting Committee. (Border Report File Photo/Sandra Sanchez)

“As far as we know we do not think we’ll get the final census data till early this summer,” Hinojosa said.

Initial projections should be received in March, but Hinojosa said it is likely that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott would have to call a special legislative session to vote on redrawing district lines.

“I anticipate that once we receive the data, that Gov. Abbott with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick will pick a date, and off we’ll go to Austin to look at the essential data,” Hinojosa said. “We will have done the majority of work before that based on estimates, and we’ll make some adjustments, but that will not be till this summer. That’s my prediction.”

Though largely delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, Hinojosa and other state and national leaders have blamed Trump for trying to add a citizenship question, further waylaying the 2020 Census. Ultimately, the U.S Supreme Court ruled to block a citizenship question. And when the count finally was underway — and mostly done through virtual technology — Trump decided to abruptly end it early in September.

That had South Texas lawmakers especially concerned and scrambling to encourage residents to fill out their census forms and to allay fears that their citizenship status would be questioned.

President Joe Biden signs his first executive orders in the Oval Office of the White House on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

On Wednesday, just hours after his inauguration, President Joe Biden signed an executive order mandating that the issue of citizenship would not be considered in the census outcome.

“The executive branch has always determined the population of each State, for purposes of congressional representation, without regard to whether its residents are in lawful immigration status,” the executive order read. “At no point since our Nation’s Founding has a person’s immigration status alone served as a basis for excluding that person from the total population count used in apportionment.”

At no point since our Nation’s Founding has a person’s immigration status alone served as a basis for excluding that person from the total population count used in apportionment.”

Jan. 20 Executive Order signed by President Joe Biden

“It’s really unfortunate what former President Trump tried to do: He wanted to exclude people who are not U.S. citizens and the Constitution is very clear that the census should be based on every person who is in the United States at the time the census is taken,” Hinojosa said. “States like Texas would lose hundreds of millions of dollars if we were not to count people if it was based on citizenship.”

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas

“President Trump left to Florida but he left this flow of damage that we will feel for a long time. And this is one of them. He wanted to do the citizenship question but the court said no. He still kept pushing and as you know, the Constitution said count every person and so what Biden did on the order is correct,” U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, told Border Report on Friday in response to a question during an online media conference.

“What Trump did while he was in office … causes a ripple effect as to the information that will be provided to the state Legislature so they can do their redistricting, which means they will have to do their work rather quickly,” Cuellar said.

Cuellar and Hinojosa both said that regardless of how Texas lawmakers draw the new state congressional and legislative lines, they fully expect multiple court challenges, which could go to the Supreme Court and even further delay implementation, possibly affecting upcoming elections.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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