Who Counts?

While reflecting on a recent Quebec meal of french fries bathed in cheese and gravy (who thought that up, anyway?), I read the Wall Street Journal piece linked in the web briefing about the harmful effects of counting illegal aliens in next year’s decennial census for the purposes of congressional (and state legislative) apportionment. For details on which states won and lost from the inclusion of illegal (and legal) immigrants in the past two censuses, see my colleagues’ work on this (here, here, and here).

But as sympathetic as I am to the concerns of the authors, the piece is sloppy and poorly thought-out. Both the authors and the headline writer conflate the inclusion of illegal aliens in the count with the inclusion of non-citizens in general — obviously, all illegals are non-citizens but not all non-citizens are illegal. If they’d done some research, they’d have learned that the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a low-immigration activist group, sued over the 1980 and 1990 censuses to stop the inclusion of illegal aliens for the purposes of apportionment and lost both times for lack of standing (if U.S. citizen eligible voters don’t have standing, who does?). But I’ve never heard of any effort to exclude legal residents from the census count and the article’s implication that the inclusion of even legal non-citizens is a new development is simply absurd (heard of the Constitution’s three-fifths rule, anyone?)
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