OPINION: Revisit what the 14th Amendment means about Census counts

The notion that the Constitution guarantees representation in the U.S. House of Representatives to non-citizens is one that seems contradictory on its face.
That notion suggests that if a planeload of Russians lands in Attala County, they immediately become entitled to representation in the U.S. House of Representatives and that they should be counted by the Census Bureau in order to apportion Mississippi’s congressional districts.

14th Amendment
Yet that’s exactly what some constitutional scholars suggest to be the fact under the 14th Amendment and what they suggest is “settled law.” George Mason University professor Michael P. McDonald, who studies the drawing of congressional districts, recently told The Washington Times newspaper that constitutional language is clear and that congressional seats must be allocated based on the total number of people – including illegal immigrants.
Every decade, the 435 seats in the House are divided among the states based on population. The 14th Amendment to the Constitution says (in part): “Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each state, excluding Indians not taxed.”
But should that number include illegal immigrants?
In a Wall Street Journal essay in August, Louisiana State University constitutional law professor John S. Baker and Louisiana demographic analyst Elliott Stonecipher countered McDonald’s assessment: “Next year’s census will determine the apportionment of House members and Electoral College votes for each state. To accomplish these vital constitutional purposes, the enumeration should count only citizens and persons who are legal, permanent residents. But it won’t. Instead, the U.S. Census Bureau is set to count all persons physically present in the country – including large numbers who are here illegally.”

Vitter amendment
U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., is pushing for a census count that asks a question to distinguish between citizens and non-citizens in order to exclude non-citizens from the numbers used for congressional reapportionment.
Vitter said a failure to do so would increase House seats for state with large numbers of illegal immigrants while taking seats away from states with relatively low populations of non-citizens like Iowa, Indiana, Mississippi, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Michigan, South Carolina and North Carolina.
Under no circumstances should Mississippi lose a House seat to a state with a population inflated by illegal immigrants. That violates the “one man, one vote” concept.
Failing to ask a citizenship question on a Census form is ridiculous, and the only thing more ridiculous is the suggestion that asking such a question is racist or xenophobic.

Contact syndicated columnist Sid Salter at (601) 961-7084 or e-mail ssalter@clarionledger. com.

Sid Salter