President Donald Trump has directed that the 2020 Census exclude illegal aliens from the official count that determines congressional apportionment for the next decade.
Naturally, immigration lobbyists and the left are aghast.
The migrant-advocacy group CASA and the American Civil Liberties Union have vowed to sue. Washington Post editorialists declared Trump’s plan is “doomed to fail.”
The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) noted, “This is the first time that the [apportionment]count would be limited to U.S. citizens and lawfully present noncitizens.”
According to the Constitution, “[Congressional] Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each state.” But, as MPI points out, “the Constitution does not specifically define which persons must be included in the apportionment base.”
The Pew Research Center recently projected that if illegal aliens were excluded, California would lose two seats instead of one, Florida would gain one instead of two, and Texas would gain two instead of three.
Alabama, Minnesota and Ohio would lose seats in a Census that includes illegal aliens. Simply reporting “total population change” — making no distinction between legal and illegal residents — effectively rewards states with high numbers of illegal aliens.
While not disputing Pew’s findings, MPI asserts that Trump’s order could incorrectly lead to some 20 million U.S. citizens lumped in with illegal aliens due to possible “matching errors.” Note the qualifier “could.”
To be sure, numerous logistical challenges (not to mention a pandemic) complicate any headcount in a nation of more than 330 million people. The one sure bet is that 100 percent accuracy is impossible. But basing congressional delegations on numbers known to include illegal aliens is 100 percent wrong.
On principle, and as a matter of law, drawing a distinction between legal U.S. citizens and illegal aliens is common sense. FAIR believes that distributing congressional seats according to illegally present individuals who cannot vote is utter nonsense.
Without knowing the tools available to the Census, MPI and partisan critics engage in unhelpful speculation while demonstrating little or no interest in the facts. Though the Supreme Court last year barred the Census from asking respondents if they are U.S. citizens, the administration is allowed to collect information on citizenship status by other means.
Congress long ago delegated the decennial Census to the executive branch. The Trump administration is correct in saying that the integrity of the democratic process warrants exclusion of illegal aliens “to the extent feasible and to the maximum extent of the president’s discretion under the law.”