Were you surprised when you found out that illegal immigrants were counted in determining how many House Representatives a state was allotted? You shouldn’t have been. Remember from high school civics, how “other persons” – meaning slaves – were to count 3/5ths of a person toward the population used to grant states a member of the House of Representatives. That was one of the concessions made to the Southern states, who had less citizen population, to get them to agree to form a “more perfect union”. (Another being the 2nd amendment where well-formed state militias were allowed to help the South suppress slave rebellions) Today’s census controversy picks up where that portion of the Constitution left off.
The new Census is designed to ask a Citizenship question and California, among at least a dozen states, is suing to prevent it. It seemed a reasonable question to me. A review of Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution leads me to surmise California has been getting more seats because of its immigrant population, and thus it opposes the question, believing illegal immigrants will avoid the census taker, and thus suppress the population count. However, there are Red States, like Texas, with large illegal populations who might also lose seats. It is not clear whether Republicans or Democrats will be hurt more, because if California can convince residents that it is kinder and gentler, while Red States – who are more openly opposed to illegals – scare them into not responding, the census suppression might be greater in Red States. This change in the Census, which has been added without “due process” and has sidestepped the years of vetting undergone by every other question that will be asked, is clearly being added for political advantage; but is it wrong to do so? Citizen questions were on censuses for over 100 years, but stopped in 1960. Now that immigrants are increasing, fears are sparking a return of the question.
In these Hungry For Power Games times, the Census Citizenship question is only one of a number of controversial census changes driven by a Republican agenda. Note that the Constitution talked about Free Persons and Other Persons, etc., but not specifically visa holders or illegal immigrants. I understand the concern that asking such questions will suppress census participation, because of fear of deportation. So today’s questions are:
1. Is an illegal immigrant counted as 3/5ths of a person now? Or at all?
The most relevant Census page describes Foreign Born, and it says: “The Census Bureau collects data from all foreign born who participate in its censuses and surveys, regardless of legal status. Thus, unauthorized migrants are implicitly included in Census Bureau estimates of the total foreign-born population” Further, a Census FAQ pages says: “Are undocumented residents (aliens) in the 50 states included in the apportionment population counts? Yes, all people (citizens and non-citizens) with a usual residence in the 50 states are to be included in the census and thus in the apportionment counts.”
2. Is a visa holder counted now? The Census website says: “Citizens of foreign countries who are visiting the U.S. on (Census Day), such as on a vacation or a business trip – Not counted in the census.” Since many VISA holders are working or attending college, and are not “visiting”, they MUST BE part of the current calculation.
3. Are prisoners counted now? Yes.
4. Are migrant workers under work permits considered “those bound to service for a term of years”, and included? Per the explanation above, they should be, but “…the U.S. government does not have an adequate, reliable estimate for the total number of temporary foreign workers who are authorized to be employed in the U.S. labor market in the main nonimmigrant visa classifications that authorize employment.” Hence, part of the motivation for this Census.
Here’s the U.S. Census page. They’ve done this before. Homeless are estimated. U.S. Citizens living overseas are counted as part of the U.S. overseas population – not for the Rep calculation. But my takeaway is that “Persons” is NOT treated as Citizens – visa holders ARE included, and illegal immigrants are also included.
So what were the Founders thinking? Probably this: Since slaves were counted, it made sense that anyone should be counted. An argument can be made that a state with a larger population deserves more representation; that the welfare of the country includes those not voting. Keep in mind that WOMEN couldn’t vote, and they were included in the Census. It is ironic that a provision created to entice slave states to join is now increasing representation in states with higher populations of illegal immigrants. The ongoing question is: in the future, should we count only Citizens to determine how many Representatives there should be? At present, the Constitution has settled that question.