Gigot: We’re a little more than six months away from the start of the 2010 census, and if you think the goal is get an accurate count of U.S. citizens, think again. Instead, the Census Bureau is set to count all people physically present in the country, including–that means large numbers who could be here illegally. That could give states with high rates of illegal immigration a big advantage when it comes to reapportioning congressional seats. One big winner, potentially: California, which stands to gain nine more seats in Congress than it would if only U.S. citizens were counted. States like Ohio, Louisiana, Michigan and Pennsylvania could be among the losers.
We’re back with Dan Henninger and John Fund, and Wall Street Journal editorial board member Jason Riley also joins the panel.
All right. John, are the–is the census set to count an awful lot of illegals as part of its count?
Fund: Yes, the Census Bureau says its job is to count everyone in the country–I assume that includes illegal aliens and tourists–and make that part of the census count.
Gigot: Tourists? They’re going to catch them at the airport?
Fund: Or the hotel. The problem is the Census Bureau, for the first time, is not going to be asking on the census form if you’re a citizen, so there’s no way of telling who they’re counting, whether they’re a citizen or not. And I think this is highly dangerous, because the Census was originally designed to count citizens and permanent residents of the United States. In the last 10 years, we’ve had a large increase in illegal immigration. There’s somewhere between 7 million and 12 million illegal aliens in this country. Adding them into the decision about which states get how many House seats really will dramatically change our politics.
Gigot: All right, Jason, do you agree with that?
Riley: No, I don’t. I think the 14th Amendment is pretty clear. It says, quote, “Count the whole number of persons in each state.” There may be residents of these states that are illegal, but they’re still residents, and according to the Constitution, John, they have to be counted. The idea that Census Bureau administrators can arbitrarily decide not to count certain people is legally dubious and probably unconstitutional.
But the second point to make, I think, is that the census is more than just about reapportioning members of Congress. It’s also going to determine federal funds, some $3 trillion in the allocation of federal funds over the next 10 years. Why should border states, who are bearing the brunt of these illegal immigrants, be punished for the federal government’s inability to take care of our illegal immigration problem?
Gigot: He has a point, Dan. I mean, Jason says, look, if the people are in the states and they have to pay for the people who are in these states for services whether they’re illegal or not, they should be allowed to have that counted because they’ll have access to the money.
Henninger: Well, you know, I think, Jason, though, what you’re suggesting is something of an abstraction. As a practical matter, the Census Bureau could–
Gigot: Money isn’t an abstraction.
Henninger: No, but counting people is real. You have to–the census goes out and takes a physical, in-place head count of the sort we were showing in the video on the screen. You don’t mean to think they’re going to go out and knock on the doors where the illegal immigrants live and they’re going to answer the door and say, “Oh, yeah, I’m be happy to fill this census form”–when they’re in hiding? So then it leads you to something we’ve talked about on this program before called statistical sampling, in which you use statistics to sort of estimate how many people are, which is what a lot of groups representing blacks, Hispanics, even Japanese, have wanted the Census Bureau to do. And they’ve resisted for years because it’s just an inaccurate account.
Riley: And the current director says he won’t do that.
Henninger: And this leads to a complete morass if you start trying to count people who are in hiding.
Fund: Paul, and the current Census Bureau director is someone who originally started this sampling process, so he’s very much in favor of it. In addition–
Gigot: But he said–wait a minute, John.
Riley: He said, on the record, that he wouldn’t do it, John.
Gigot: He has said, on the record, that he will not do it.
Fund: As far as I know, and from my sources inside the Census Department, they are preparing to use sampling techniques next year.
Gigot: John, let me ask you about the constitutional argument here. Eugene Volokh, a conservative constitutional scholar, among others, agrees with Jason and says, Look, if you’re going to change and you want to count only citizens, then you’ve got to have to have a constitutional amendment, because the 14th Amendment says what it says.
Fund: Well, what has been done in the past is you’ve had two separate numbers, one that could be used, in theory, to apportion the money that these border states, for example, have to bear costs from illegal aliens, and the other to reapportion the House districts. So I think you can do something that I think preserves the original intent of the Constitution and also takes into account the need for federal money to be allocated fairly.
Gigot: Well, but in terms of the allocation of representation, the small states are already–are overrepresented by population in the Senate, so they do get, regardless of the census count, a fairly good representation in the United States.
Fund: But the distortions are now becoming so large. If California has nine more congressmen and -women than it’s allowed normally, that’s an enormous distortion of our political process. And it’s no longer a small one we can ignore.
Riley: I doubt that nine–that California’s going to get nine more congressman, John, I think other indications show there’s been a lot of outmigration from California and Northeastern states as well.