NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Monday on whether the president can exclude from the census people who are in the country illegally.

The census helps determine the amount of federal funding and congressional representatives our area receives. As CBS2’s Lisa Rozner reports, that now hangs in the balance.

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During an audio-only oral argument session, there were few, if any, takers on the high court for President Donald Trump’s effort to leave all unlawful immigrants out of the critical count of the U.S. census.  No president has tried to remove millions of non-citizens from the once a decade count of the U.S. population.

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Acting U.S. Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall explained why now.

“For first half of the nation’s history, the question doesn’t come up because you don’t have federal immigration restrictions,” Wall said.  He also said the administration could just exclude categories of immigrants, such as those who are in immigration detention or those who have been ordered to leave the country.

“Isn’t that going to be like having to unscramble the eggs?” said Chief Justice John Roberts at the Supreme Court hearing. “The apportionment, any change in any one state is going to have ripple effects.”

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New York Attorney General Letitia James is challenging the president’s request.  Lawyer Barbara Underwood spoke on her behalf, as well as the American Civil Liberties Union.

“This policy ignores the undisputed fact that millions of undocumented immigrants have lived here for decades and have substantial community ties,” said Underwood.

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“People’s status changes over time for a lot of different reasons.  What about people with DACA?” said Dale Ho, director of American Civil Liberties Union.

States could already see an undercount since the census deadline was cut short this year.  Some political experts say New Jersey could end up with one less seat in the House of Representatives and New York may lose two.

The Trump Administration asked the high court for a decision by the end of December, when numbers are due to the president, but a delay of even three weeks means the census bureau would be turning numbers over to a new president.

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