The Trump administration recently moved to exclude illegal immigrants from the census count used for apportioning House seats and Electoral College votes by state. The order was met with the kind of breathless response we have come to expect from the media in the Trump era. Wednesday’s hearing on the topic in the House of Representatives gave politicians another opportunity to posture.
As is too often the case, the facts have been obscured by the outrage. Through both apportionment across states and redistricting within them, the presence of noncitizens does affect political representation — often to the detriment of conservatives.
In theory, including illegals in the apportionment process redistributes House seats from states made up primarily of American citizens to states where large numbers of illegal immigrants live. In fact, including any noncitizens (legal or illegal) in the apportionment of House seats can have the effect of reducing the representation of the people who can actually vote — namely, citizens.
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Although excluding illegals from apportionment is a defensible policy, ultimately the best way to avoid shifting political power is to enforce immigration laws and to also reduce legal immigration. If we choose not to do so, then we have to accept the impact on political representation that unavoidably comes with large-scale legal and illegal immigration.