Was Trump right to sign the order to prevent illegal immigrants from being counted in census numbers?
- On July 21, President Donald Trump signed an order claiming that undocumented migrants should not be counted in the census for purposes of Congress apportionment in each state.
- The U.S. has been counting non-citizens, regardless of their immigration status, for the purposes of congressional apportionment for years. The Constitution says “that each state must have at least one representative, and that the apportionment of others should be based on an enumeration of the population.”
- Last year, the Trump administration tried to add a citizenship question for the first time in 60 years, but was blocked by the Supreme Court. Chief Justice John Roberts said the administration's rationale for adding the question was 'contrived.'
- There is an estimate of 10.5 million undocumented immigrants in the United States as of 2017, compared to 10.7 million in 2016.
Every ten years, the U.S. Census Bureau conducts a national population survey as directed by the Constitution. The original and still primary purpose behind the Census lies in creating the most accurate possible apportionment for the House of Representatives. As states gain or lose population, the Census tracks how that will affect the size of both their share of the congressional delegation and the Electoral College.
On July 21, President Trump ordered a halt to counting illegal immigrants for apportionment. When the Census counted illegal immigrants as part of the apportionment formula, states could gain an advantage through offering incentives to illegal immigrants. Through welfare offerings, sanctuary cities, and other means, states encouraged outright criminality and gained congressional representation in the process. Some states expanded the financial incentives offered to illegal immigrants, attracting large numbers and seeing huge costs as well.
As of three years ago, California led the nation in illegal immigration-related costs. Its total costs run between one-third and one half of the total amount spent by all other states. Although California has seen the federal government refer to its homeless population as a 'crisis,' the state spends approximately 20 times more on illegal immigrants. More importantly, counting non-citizens for apportionment undermines the value of individual citizenship. It creates incentives for states and cities to cheapen the value of that citizenship and the law itself to cheaply obtain more influence over both the executive and legislative branches. Short term cheating never leads to long term positives. Trump rightfully closed the loophole out of respect for both the law and the value of citizenship.
Trump's attempt to prevent undocumented immigrants from being counted in the Census is a transparent political effort to reduce the number of House seats apportioned to Democratic states. It flouts 200 years of precedent establishing that the Census counts all residents of the country, citizens or not. The 14th Amendment to the Constitution plainly states that 'Representatives shall be apportioned among the several states according to their respective numbers counting the whole number of persons in each state.'
11-13 million undocumented immigrants are estimated to reside in the United States, and excluding them from the Census would cause fewer seats to be apportioned to areas with large Hispanic populations, which lean Democratic. The Census also helps to determine how to allocate more than $700 billion in federal funds, and would deprive the states, counties, and cities with large immigrant populations of funding. By preventing undocumented immigrants from being counted in the Census, the president aims to reduce the political power of Democratic areas while also depriving them of government services.
Trump's attempt to exclude illegal immigrants from the Census is a continuation of his earlier effort to add a citizenship question to the Census, which was struck down by the Supreme Court. That too was an attempt to discourage immigrants from answering the Census and therefore apportion fewer seats to Democratic-leaning states. Since its founding, the Census has included all residents of the U.S., regardless of their immigration status, as it's legally mandated to do. Trump's order would create a less accurate census which disempowers Hispanic communities.