Friday, August 7, 2020

Legal and Illegal Immigration Impact Political Representation

Brian Snyder/Reuters
Including illegal immigrants in the census increases the voting power of states that have lots of them.
The Trump administration recently moved to exclude illegal immigrants from the census count used for apportioning House seats and Electoral College votes by state. The order was met with the kind of breathless response we have come to expect from the media in the Trump era. Wednesday’s hearing on the topic in the House of Representatives gave politicians another opportunity to posture.
As is too often the case, the facts have been obscured by the outrage. Through both apportionment across states and redistricting within them, the presence of noncitizens does affect political representation — often to the detriment of conservatives.
In theory, including illegals in the apportionment process redistributes House seats from states made up primarily of American citizens to states where large numbers of illegal immigrants live. In fact, including any noncitizens (legal or illegal) in the apportionment of House seats can have the effect of reducing the representation of the people who can actually vote — namely, citizens.
How much effect will it have in reality? While the number of illegal immigrants in the country is a matter of some debate, based on past patterns, around 10 million will likely respond to the census this year. That works out to about 3 percent of the total population in the 2020 census, which means that the impact of illegal immigrants will not be enormous. That said, it can be significant in some circumstances.
Seats in the House are apportioned by first giving each state one seat and then distributing the remaining 385 seats using the “method of equal proportions,” which is really just a fancy way to determine how fractions are rounded. Every ten years there are states on the threshold of retaining, receiving, or losing a seat. Since illegal immigrants are not equally distributed throughout the country, even small changes can be enough to redistribute a seat.
In December of last year, my colleague Karen Zeigler and I estimated the likely impact of immigration on the 2020 census. Using the method of equal proportions, we found that the inclusion of illegals will redistribute three seats. Ohio, Alabama, and Minnesota each lose a seat to California, New York, and Texas. For these six states, illegal immigration matters a great deal.
Consider Alabama, which currently has seven seats. It will lose one-seventh of its current representation because of illegal immigration. But the state is not losing this seat because its population declined. Based on the population estimate released for 2019 from the Census Bureau, Alabama grew by well over 100,000 people since 2010. Put simply, Alabama will lose representation in the House because other states have attracted more illegal aliens.
Read the rest from Steven A. Camarota HERE.

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