Yesterday, the Census Bureau released a new congressional apportionment map which gives more Congressional seats to the South and the West at the expense of the Northeast and the Midwest. One of the states that will lose a congressional seat is Louisiana.
Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) released a statement yesterday expressing his outrage. According to Vitter, undocumented immigrants are to blame for Louisiana’s loss of a congressional seat:
“Even though we’ve been expecting this, the confirmation that Louisiana will lose a congressional seat is frustrating. Last year, I tried to prevent this from happening with my amendment to require a citizenship question on the census and to prevent the counting of illegal immigrants for the purpose of apportionment,” said Vitter. “Now, Louisiana stands to lose clout in Congress, while states that welcome illegal immigrants stand to unfairly benefit from artificially inflated population totals.”
As Vitter notes, last year, he and Robert Bennett (R-UT) attempted to add an amendment to the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill that would require the U.S. Census Bureau to add a question about immigration status to its 2010 survey. According to Vitter, undocumented immigrants should be specifically identified and cut out of congressional reapportionment decisions because they “dilute” the voting power of the rest of the population.
The Fourteenth Amendment clearly stipulates that representation should be determined by “counting the whole number of persons in each State.” Asking a citizenship question would’ve likely dissuaded undocumented immigrants from participating in the Census in the first place. Widespread non-participation would have lead to inaccurate demographic information and costly mistakes in infrastructure, education, and health care planning. That’s why children, ex-felons, legal residents, and several other nonvoters are also included in the census apportionment data.
For those reasons, Vitter’s proposal fell flat on its face. The census questionnaire didn’t include a single question on immigration status. So, it’s odd that Vitter is now complaining that “states that welcome illegal immigrants” are going to benefit at Louisiana’s expense when he doesn’t even have any census data to base that on.
What the new census data does show is that the Latino population is rapidly expanding across the country and will nearly triple to about 130 million by mid-century. Of course, not all Latinos are immigrants and they’re certainly not all undocumented. Yet if Vitter’s race-baiting campaign ads are any indication, the senator of Louisiana has a hard time distinguishing between the two.
Vitter has also failed to acknowledge that migrants — many of them undocumented — have given Louisiana a much-needed population boost and helped rebuild its infrastructure following the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Demographers point to the state’s sluggish growth over the past decade that put it “on track to lose a seat in the House of Representatives and one of its nine electoral votes anyway.”
Cross-posted at the Wonk Room.