29 October 2003

Non-Citizens and Representation

What do the states of Michigan, Indiana, Mississippi have in common? According to a report put out by the Center for Immigration Studies, these three states lost seats in the United States House of Representatives because of the huge number of illegal immigrants that have arrived on our shores.

How did this happen? First we need to look at how states get representation in the House of Representatives in the first place. The House of Representatives has a total of 435 seats that are given out to the fifty states. Each state gets at least one seat in the House. After that, it is dependent on the population of each state how many more seats they will receive. If the state’s population has gone up in the last 10 years, they may get another seat. If the state’s population has gone down, the state may lose a seat. (This is unlike the Senate, where it is not dependent on state population. Each state gets two senators, no more, no less).

The next question to tackle is how does the government know how much the population has shifted between states over the past ten years? The answer is the Census form that families fill out across the United States giving the Census Bureau an idea of who lives where and all sorts of other details. So based on this Census taken every ten years, the House seats are redistributed between states, with some gaining and some losing seats. Most of us are under the impression that illegal and legal residents (green card holders) are not counted toward the redistribution of House seats. We would be wrong.

Who cares if the illegal immigrants are counted in the Census and toward redistribution of those House seats? We should care, and especially as Michigan citizens. According to the United States Census Bureau there were near 7 million illegal aliens and 12 million other non-citizens that were counted in the 2000 Census. The Center for Immigration Studies looked at the impact of these non-citizens on state representation in the House of Representatives. They found that it was because of the non-citizen population that 9 seats ended up being redistributed between states. Where were these seats taken from and where were they given? The states that lost a seat were: Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Wisconsin. Which states gained seats? California gained six seats while Florida, New York and Texas each gained one apiece.

What this means is that states such as Michigan, which is not known for its immigration, lost a House seat to states such as California, which is known for its huge immigrant population. This would not be such a big deal if the difference in population was because of a population shift of citizens between states. However, what is being shown here is that states like California are getting unequal representation because of their non-citizen populations. This is the main point of the problem. There is supposed to be equal representation in the House of Representatives between states, but it does not work when you throw non-citizens into the mix.

While these non-citizens do not gain anything by being counted in the Census, the citizens living in the same state are. They are gaining an unequal advantage of representation in the House. California residents have more representatives than Michigan in the House of Representatives only because of their non-citizens.

This also makes a difference when it comes time to choose a President. The President is chosen by the electoral college. The number of electors that each state has is the total number of Senators and Representatives they have in Congress. When a state has more representatives, they have more electors, which in turn gives that state a larger voice in who the next President will be.

To sum up, states that are low in non-citizens and general immigration, such as Michigan, are losing representation to those states that have a population of immigrants, like California. Since these non-citizens do not have the same rights as Americans in general it would make sense that they would not be counted in the representation in Congress. But they are, and Michigan is losing out.

To read the Center for Immigration Studies report:


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