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Opinion | A Republic, if we can keep it: The cost of counting undocumented immigrants in the U.S Census

Attorney General Steven Marshall

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Whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, liberal or conservative, you have a right to have your voice heard in the halls of Congress. The 4.8 million Americans who live in Alabama have the same right to representation as 4.8 million Americans living in Southern California or the Texas Panhandle. But that right — the right to equal representation — is quietly under attack.

You see, following the 2020 census, Alabama is likely going to lose one of our seven seats in Congress. That is because Alabama has a relatively low number of undocumented immigrants residing here. Today, as you may be aware, it is estimated that there are at least 12 million individuals currently living in America illegally — a figure almost certainly far lower than the real number, given that it is based on self-reporting — yet it is believed that half of those individuals live in just three states. When the census forms are mailed out to homes across the country, many of those 12 million people will be counted for the purposes of determining the number of congressional districts and electoral votes that each state will be given. This means that states like California and Texas, with large illegal populations, will be given additional seats in Congress and additional votes in the Electoral College.

Whatever your political leanings, ponder for a moment what this means. There is absolutely no credible argument to be made that the Constitution allows undocumented immigrants to vote in U.S. elections. At an even more basic level, now as a resident of Montgomery County, I can no longer vote in a local election in Marshall County, despite my frequent visits there with friends and family. Why is that so? Because our country was founded as a representative democracy. “We the people,” who control our government, control it by way of elections. When you vote in an election, you must prove that you are who you say you are, and that you live where you say you live — that is appropriate because you are choosing who will represent you and your neighbors in Washington or in Montgomery.

If we accept that individuals who are in our country illegally do not enjoy the right to vote in our elections—and there is no sound legal argument that they do — then it must follow that these individuals cannot possibly be entitled to the same level of representation in government as American citizens. Otherwise, citizens of states that have more undocumented immigrants residing there at the time of the census are given disproportionate representation in Congress and in the Electoral College — an irrational proposition. In a state in which a large share of the population cannot vote, those who can vote count more than those who live in states where a larger share of the population is made up of American citizens. Counting large illegal-alien populations in the census unfairly takes voting power — the weight of one vote — away from American citizens based on the presence of citizens of other nations. This cannot be reconciled with the principle of equal representation enshrined in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

Last year, my office filed suit against several federal agencies — including the U.S. Census Bureau — in an effort to guard against our looming loss of representation due to our low illegal-alien population. Recently, we succeeded against an attempt by the federal government to have the suit dismissed. Still, we have many more battles ahead. And we will fight them all, up to the hilt, because our cause is just.

We will defend the right of the people of Alabama to equal representation.

 

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