Immigration

Illegal Aliens and the 2020 Census

Trump refuses to reward "sanctuary" states with greater congressional representation.

Thomas Gallatin · Jul. 22, 2020

Without any fanfare or media present, President Donald Trump signed an executive order Tuesday preventing the inclusion of illegal aliens in the 2020 census. Political power should not be granted “to people who should not be here at all,” he argued. “My administration will not support giving congressional representation to aliens who enter or remain in the country unlawfully because doing so would create perverse incentives and undermine our system of government,” Trump explained. “This is all part of a broader left-wing effort to erode the rights of American citizens, and I will not stand for it.”

Trump’s order comes in response to the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling in June 2019 disallowing the inclusion of a citizenship question in the 2020 census on the grounds that the administration failed to provide adequate reasoning for including the question. Tellingly, the Court did not address the constitutionality of a citizenship question. At the time, Trump responded by asking, “Can anyone really believe that as a great Country, we are not able [to] ask whether or not someone is a Citizen[?] Only in America!” Given the deadline for initiating the census, the administration chose to drop the matter.

Predictably, Democrats howled that Trump’s order was “blatantly unconstitutional.” Elizabeth Wydra, president of the leftist Constitutional Accountability Center, insisted, “The Constitution’s text is clear. The federal government has a constitutional obligation to count all people living in the United States, whether they are citizens or non-citizens, whether they were born in the United States or in a distant part of the world.”

Wydra conveniently omits the significant contextual fact upon which the entire issue rests — the consideration of legal versus illegal-resident status. While it is true that the census calls for legal noncitizen residents to be included in the count, the notion that the Founders intended that anyone illegally living in the land should be counted for legal representation is clearly nonsense. Look no further than the infamous Three-Fifths Compromise to see the Founders’ mindset. They recognized that fully counting a non-voting population of slaves in the South in the census would unfairly grant slave states greater representative power in Congress.

The Washington Times notes, “A Center for Immigration Studies report in December said Alabama, Ohio and Minnesota each would lose one House seat if illegal immigrants are included in the 2020 census. California, New York and Texas each would gain one seat.” And this is the crux of the issue for Democrats, as was demonstrated by their immediate rush to announce that the House Oversight Committee would hold an emergency hearing next week. Committee chair Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) lamented, “By excluding undocumented immigrants from apportionment or redistricting, this administration departs from more than two centuries of practice and constitutional understanding.”

In his order, Trump acknowledged that the Constitution doesn’t specifically define who should be counted to determine a state’s number of representatives, but he argued that “the discretion delegated to the executive branch to determine who qualifies as an ‘inhabitant’ includes authority to exclude from the apportionment base aliens who are not in a lawful immigration status.”

Furthermore, Trump made clear his reason for issuing the order: “States adopting policies that encourage illegal aliens to enter this country and that hobble federal efforts to enforce the immigration laws passed by the Congress should not be rewarded with greater representation in the House of Representatives.”

Steven Camarota, research director at the Center for Immigration Studies, cogently observed, “This order reminds us that tolerating illegal immigration has a cascading series of consequences for the country. One of which is that American citizens lose political representation in Congress and the Electoral College in order to create districts that contain a lot of illegal immigrants. Their impact is not confined to the House of Representatives and the Electoral College. It affects every state house, every state senate. And it affects the way you draw every district, for county commissioners, for your city council, for your local sewer authority and school board. Every place where there’s a district and political representation is handed out, the inclusion of illegal immigrants means that American citizens have to lose political representation.”

Irrespective of Trump’s order, this fight is far from over and will likely become a major campaign issue for both parties. What Trump has done is made clear his intention to continue fighting for the rights of American citizens against those on the Left who seek to minimize and abuse them.

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