Earlier this afternoon, Sens. David Vitter (R-LA) and Robert Bennett (R-UT) made a pitch for their amendment to the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill that would require the US Census Bureau to add a question about immigration status to its 2010 survey. Vitter and Bennett both adamantly claimed that Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Oregon, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina would all lose federal representatives if undocumented immigrants are not singled out and excluded from congressional apportionment decisions:
VITTER: Under the federal plan, the way the Census is designed, the US House would be reapportioned counting illegal aliens. States that have large populations of illegals would be rewarded for that. Other states — including my homestate of Louisiana — would be penalized…if you vote against this amendment, you’re voting against the interests of your state…we should not award states for having large illegal populations and penalize states who do not.
BENNETT: If we have this tremendous number of illegal aliens concentrated in a few states, we have an impact of changing the one-man one-vote dictum of the Supreme Court. That is, a state with a large number of illegal immigrants will see to it that its voters have greater representation than voters where the illegal immigrants are not.
In a recently released report, the Drum Major Institute (DMI) points out that “concerns about ‘vote dilution’ are misplaced.” The Fourteenth Amendment clearly stipulates that representation should be determined by “counting the whole number of persons in each State,” or in another words, an indiscriminate population count. The purpose of including non-voters is to paint an accurate portrait of a state’s demographic makeup and population density that’s key to effective and adequate representation. Currently, children, ex-felons, legal residents, and several other nonvoters are also included in the census apportionment data.
While Bennett insists that his amendment will not affect funding formulas, he fails to take into account that most undocumented immigrants will probably be deterred from responding to the Census if there is a question about their immigration status. That wouldn’t be such a big deal if census data weren’t also used to efficiently distribute federal funding and Community Development Block Grants that benefit all residents. According to DMI, non-participation of undocumented immigrants could lead to inaccurate demographic information and result in costly mistakes in infrastructure, education, and healthcare planning.
Ultimately, it’s pretty counter-intuitive that Bennett and Vitter are supposedly arguing on behalf of many of the states that have benefited from a recent influx of undocumented immigrants. This past April, the Pew Hispanic Research Center released a report showing that undocumented immigrants are “more geographically dispersed than in the past.” While California’s 42% share of undocumented immigrants in 1990 declined to 22% in 2008, the state of North Carolina has become “a new immigrant destination” and is now home to approximately 350,000 undocumented immigrants. Meanwhile, immigration has accounted for 75% of the midwest’s population growth, which has helped counter the region’s overall population decline. In the case of Vitter’s homestate, migrants have given Louisiana a much-needed population boost and helped rebuild its infrastructure following the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Taken together, all of this information indicates that Senators from the states that Vitter listed might be shooting themselves in the foot if they vote for his amendment considering the fact that it would eliminate the inclusion of a growing population in the apportionment of their congressional seats and impede an accurate Census count which their state funding depends on.