Trump may have lost -- but Amy Coney Barrett can still help the president sabotage the census
Donald Trump and Amy Coney Barrett, AFP photo by Brendan Smialowski.

President Donald Trump may have lost the election, but with his third Supreme Court nominee confirmed to the high court, his once “unconstitutional” attacks on American institutions may soon become law of the land. In the next several months, Justice Amy Coney Barrett is set to rule on the census, discrimination in foster care, and the ability of the president to divert Congressional funds.

Trump v. New York started with President Trump’s 2019 memorandum to exclude “illegal” immigrants from the census and congressional apportionment. This was challenged by a number of government organizations and non-governmental organizations, and the Court agreed that the memorandum was unconstitutional.

The Trump administration is now bringing it back to court. A ruling in Trump’s favor could have dramatic implications for the future of the census and Congressional apportionment. If the court changes its prior ruling, it could give the president the ability to exclude immigrants from the census and reduce the capacity in which other organizations can challenge similar orders.

Wolf v. Innovation Law Lab, another case regarding immigration law, will challenge the Trump administration’s “remain in Mexico” policy. Since January 2019, this measure has forced migrants to return to Mexico while their requests for asylum are processed by U.S. immigration agencies.

If the court upholds this policy, it could continue indefinitely and limit the mobility and freedom of migrants seeking asylum in the United States. Countless immigrants may continue to face deportation and inhospitable living conditions near the border if the policy is upheld.

“Asylum seekers face grave danger every day this illegal and depraved policy is in effect,” ACLU attorney Judy Rabinovitz told Reuters. “The courts have repeatedly ruled against it, and the Supreme Court should as well.”

In Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, a lawsuit by a religious nonprofit foster care provider that refuses to serve LGBTQ+ clients, a First Amendment religious freedom case could set a precedent for discrimination practices by similar taxpayer-funded social service agencies.

If the Court rules in the nonprofit’s favor, it could mean that foster care agencies, homeless shelters, and food banks—just to name a few—could deny services to the LGBTQ+ community on religious grounds. For the 40% of homeless youth in the US that are LGBTQ+ and often rely on these services to survive, this ruling could literally be a matter of life or death.

In a fourth case, a lawsuit against the Department of Defense for redirecting $2.5 billion from military funding to the US-Mexico border wall is under review.

The Court’s ruling could say a lot about the future of checks and balances for the Executive branch. If the Trump administration prevails, the decision would set a precedent for large spending diversions without Congressional approval. Such a decision could affect any number of purposes—not just something like a border wall.

Constitutionally, Congress alone has this kind of spending power, so a ruling in Trump’s favor would forecast a major shift.

“The courts have once again confirmed what everyone knows: Trump’s fake ‘national emergency’ was just another pretext for targeting immigrants and border communities,” said Dror Ladin of the ACLU in a Texas Tribune report about a previous ruling on the case.

But should the Supreme Court rule in Trump’s favor, such attempts to leverage language and power for presidential agendas may become more common—and more successful.