|When Illegal Aliens Take Over the House, Courtesy of the U.S. Senate|
By Ashton Ellis
Wednesday, November 18 2009
Sometimes, the public square can be mistaken for an insane asylum.
On November 5th, an amendment to a bill funding the Census Bureau was defeated in the United States Senate. Unlike most proposed changes to routine spending bills, the amendment co-sponsored by Senators David Vitter (R-Louisiana) and Bob Bennett (R-Utah) would have required census questionnaires to include a new question: Are you a United States citizen?
The reason for asking is really quite simple. Grouping illegal immigrants into the same population pool as citizens equalizes them for the purposes of congressional reapportionment. That means that after the 2010 census is completed, states with high numbers of illegal immigrants will be poised to gain more House seats in Congress than states with lower levels.
Projecting current population trends forward into 2010, California will increase its congressional representation to 57; Texas to 38. Not counting illegal immigrants reduces their clout to 48 and 34, respectively. Moreover, since the total number of seats in the House of Representatives is capped at 435, the movement of congressional seats from one state to another is a zero sum game. Thus, for every seat migrating to a state with high levels of illegal immigration, there is one less set of footsteps on the House Floor for a state with higher levels of citizens.
Of course, this is controversial. That much should be expected. The remarkable part about the amendment’s critics, however, is that they never spoke directly to its purpose. They never rebutted the argument that United States Congressmen should represent United States citizens. Instead, their responses ranged from the comical to the nonsensical.
First to despair was the Census Bureau itself. In order to ensure compliance, the amendment required the bureau to add the citizenship question or cease being funded. Undeterred, the head counters emphasized that compliance would increase costs through reprinting forms and decrease the time needed to meet the statutory deadline for completing the data. Seriously? Perhaps the Census Bureau didn’t get the memo, but we’re now in the Age of Obama. Budgets are meant to be exploded. Besides, if the Bureau really needs extra help on a rush print job producing millions of new government paper products, it can call the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve. America could use a few months’ break from printing money.
Then the identity politics groups weighed in. The president of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights claimed the amendment “contradicts what America stands for.” The executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Education Fund alleged that Vitter and Bennett intended to “suppress the Latino vote.” Not to be outdone, the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders urged a boycott of the census to shame Congress into granting amnesty to illegal immigrants. Totally absent from any of those screeds was a principled response to the notion that members of the United States House of Representatives should represent the legal residents of the United States.
So, taken together, it’s un-American for the Census Bureau to ask whether people filling out government forms are citizens. Presumably, this is because the very act of asking is tantamount to “suppressing” Latino votes. But which votes would be suppressed? The votes of Latinos with American citizenship, or those without? The distinction is crucial. By the critics’ same tortured logic, limiting federal elections to American citizens would “suppress” the votes of Mexican nationals, though some yearn to cast an American ballot. Such an idea sounds absurd until it is remembered that is precisely what is at stake in the Voter ID battles.
Buried within the debate on what to do about illegal immigration is the idea that American citizenship should carry with it unique rights and responsibilities. All the Vitter-Bennett amendment sought to do was solidify the importance of citizenship in our constitutional system. The fact that a majority of United States Senators cannot bring themselves to distinguish between American citizens and non-citizens indicates that the inmates are running the asylum formerly known as the public square.
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