Monday, September 07, 2009

7078: Adding Power And Politics.

From The Chicago Tribune…

Counting everybody

Counting people may seem like one of the most innocuous activities the U.S. government can undertake. But each decennial census generates a great deal of political conflict, for the simple reason that as the population grows and shifts, political consequences follow.

After the 2010 census, U.S. House districts will have to be redrawn, with some states adding representatives and others losing seats. The political fights occur when state legislators draw new lines that will help or hurt one party or the other, as well as help or hurt incumbent members.

But the growth of illegal immigration raises a relatively new concern—how all these noncitizens, who are included in the population tally, are affecting the distribution of power. States with a lot of undocumented foreigners stand to gain seats, while states without them face possible losses. Which raises the question: Should illegals be excluded from the census counts used for congressional reapportionment?

Writing in The Wall Street Journal, two experts argue that they should be. Louisiana State University law professor John Baker and pollster Elliott Stonecipher say that counting them violates the Constitution by including people who have no right to be here. They also warn that the resulting “malapportionment” will give California four more seats in Congress, while stripping representation from several states.

But their argument falls short in two important ways. As UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh notes, the 14th Amendment says seats shall be apportioned to states “according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each state, excluding Indians not taxed.” If the framers had meant to limit the category to citizens, they would have used that term instead of persons, as they did elsewhere.

Nor is the effect of the existing policy nearly as great as Baker and Stonecipher say. Other experts say California has no chance of adding seats after 2010—and may lose one. And if states get an influx of illegals because of Washington’s failure to keep them out, giving them more representation is not an entirely unreasonable compensation for the costs they bear.

Excluding the undocumented would also be harder than it sounds. Currently, the universal census doesn’t ask about the legal status of the respondents. It could, of course, but how many illegal immigrants would answer truthfully?

The real issue here is how to write and enforce Immigration laws that discourage people from coming illegally and working illegally. Absent a practical and broadly acceptable answer to that question, excluding illegal immigrants from the census would solve absolutely nothing.

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