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Immigration reform or "Cooking the apportionment books"

By Frank Salvato
web posted April 17, 2006

I have been saying for quite some time that border security and immigration reform are two separate issues. True, these two issues share a common catalyst, illegal immigration, but this does not marry the two. Immigration reform has to do with how people come here legally and the process that entails. Border security has to do with keeping the ineligible, the unwanted and the avowed enemy out. The damage from neglecting both of these issues for decades has already left its mark on American government.

When people think of illegal immigration they tend to think of it in terms of how it affects two general issues; the economy and security. Where illegal immigration is of concern to people who may be willing to take the low-wage jobs currently done by those who have come to this country illegally, others are alarmed by the almost non-existent border security and the possibility of malcontents waltzing across the Southern border of the United States with dirty bombs or bio-chemicals to be fashioned into weapons of mass destruction.

Both of these issues are legitimate and serious. They both pose a major threat to the future of our country. But there is another factor in the issue of illegal immigration that most Americans don't recognize on its face. This is its impact on Congressional apportionment; the calculation of seats each state gets in the US House of Representatives and the effect illegal immigration has on the Electoral College.

Recently, Steven Camarota, the Director of Research for the Center for Immigration Studies, testified on this very issue before the House Subcommittee on Federalism and the Census. His testimony exposed the damage that illegal immigration has already caused to our system of government and illuminates exactly why border security and immigration reform are issues too serious for business-as-usual politicians.

Taking of a census is an enormous task. As the current law overseeing the execution of the census stands, it counts everyone present in the United States. It counts citizens and non-citizens (illegals included), foreign students and guest workers. It is all about the population and not the classification (my apologies to Jesse Jackson for the unintentional use of a rhyme in a political dissertation).

Data collected since the completion of the 2000 Census, suggests that there are 21.7 million non-citizens in the US today. This number represents 7.4 percent of the total population. It is commonly accepted that over 11 million of the 21.7 million are illegal aliens.

In the US House of Representatives, seats are apportioned based on the total population of each state relative to the rest of the nation. This population total – because of the way the census is administered – includes non-citizens, including illegal aliens.

In his testimony before the House Committee on Federalism and the Census, Mr. Camarota alluded to the fact that the more than 18 million non-citizens living in the United States in 2000 were equal to nearly 29 congressional seats. He noted that states with a large non-citizen population will gain seats in the House at the expense of those with a more limited number of non-citizens. In 2000, approximately 70 percent of all non-citizens lived in six states; 50 percent living in just three.

A 2003 report by the Center for Immigration Studies titled, "Remaking the Political Landscape: The Impact of Illegal and Legal Immigration on Congressional Apportionment" found:

"…that the presence of non-citizens caused a total of nine [House] seats to change hands. Indiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin each lost a seat that they had prior to the 2000 Census while Montana, Kentucky and Utah each failed to gain a seat they otherwise would have gained, but for the presence of non-citizens in other states. Of the nine seats redistributed [because of] non-citizens, 6 went to California, while Texas, New York and Florida each gained a seat. New York retained a seat it otherwise would have lost."

The report goes on to say that of the nine states that lost seats due to non-citizens, four were the result of those here illegally.

The citizen to non-citizen ratios in states with high numbers of non-citizens also means that it takes fewer votes to win a district's House seat. In 2002 it only took 68,000 votes to win a House seat in California where it took, on average, 101,000 votes to win one in any of the states that lost House seats because of non-citizens. This certainly endangers the "one man one vote" principle.

But this issue doesn't end with the US House of Representatives. Because the same calculations used to delegate congressional seats are used in the apportionment of the Electoral College, non-citizens and illegal immigrants also dramatically effect our presidential elections. This becomes crystal clear when you look back at the Electoral College tallies in both the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections.

So, while there are some legitimate concerns about the over-all American ethic where immigration reform and border security are concerned – "give me your tired, your poor, those yearning for government sponsored entitlement programs at taxpayer expense" – the issue is one that is deadly serious.

We can ill-afford to let the politicians play their opportunistic games with immigration reform and border security. We must not let them clandestinely "cook the apportionment books." Non-citizens need to be sifted out of the apportionment process completely. That will take an act of Congress.

We haven't heard a lot about this subject and that is chillingly disconcerting. Something so toxic to our nation's well-being should be publicly examined, re-examined and then examined again. Certainly, it does explain why so many in the minority party are so eager to grant voting rights in the name of immigration reform to so many who are not US citizens. That should be examined too.

Frank Salvato is the managing editor for The New Media Journal.us. He serves at the Executive Director of the Basics Project, a non-profit, non-partisan, 501(C)(3) socio-political education project. His pieces are regularly featured in over 100 publications both nationally and internationally. He has appeared on The O'Reilly Factor, numerous radio shows coast to coast and his pieces have been recognized by the Japan Center for Conflict. He can be contacted at oped@newmediajournal.us Copyright © 2006 Frank Salvato

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